Kampala — SPORTS Minister Chishimba Kambwili has told the national football team that they stand to earn more than the US$5,000 (K26 million) promised to each player as winning bonus if they beat Uganda and qualify for next year's Africa Cup finals in South Africa.
Kambwili who addressed the players here yesterday said there was more where the K26 million and the chartered plane came from and that such goodies would continue coming the Chipolopolo way on condition they continue winning.
Speaking to the players soon after he had lunch with them at the plush Sheraton Hotel, the minister said that the Government would do everything possible to ensure the players, who he described as a privileged group, got all they wanted.
He said Republican President Michael Sata was just as eager about the success of the team and decided that instead of the $3,000 (about K16 million) the players got for qualifiers, the money be upped to $5,000 so that the players remained happy and kept the country happy and united.
"When the coach asked me for a charter plane in the dressing room, I promised we shall do everything we can and we asked Konkola Copper Mines to help us and they did.
"All this is despite their coffers not being enough. So now you go out and qualify us to South Africa and then Brazil (World Cup)," he said.
In describing the players as a privileged group, he said the current team was lucky to have a FAZ president (Kalusha Bwalya) who is a former footballer and a minister (Kambwili) also a former footballer in his native Luanshya and that assured the players that all their needs would be taken care of.
He must have also been referring to the fact that the team, apart from moving to a plush Sheraton Hotel away from a dingy hotel the Ugandan Football Association (FUFA) had booked Zambia, came with its own food and Zambia Army chefs. They had nshima and dried fish for lunch.
In praising Government for its commitment to the team, Kalusha said the chartered plane was a historic event as it was the first time the team had travelled in such a manner and that it was befitting for African champions.
"This matter cannot go without mention because it shows that we are going forward and not going back to the buffalo plane days (In reference to the fateful Zambia Air Force plane that the national team used to use for national assignments in the past).
"This is also the first time we have received everything we have asked for from a team. This is motivating to the players and we would like to thank you," Kalusha said.
And Zambia coach, Hervè Renard said the Chipolopolo were dedicating today's qualifier against Uganda to striker Jacob Mulenga whose father died early this week and will be put to rest at Chingola Road Cemetery in Kitwe today.
Speaking moments before the last training session ahead of the key match, Renard said the team commiserated with Mulenga and that the best way to comfort him was to qualify for the Africa Cup where Mulenga would have another shot at making the team.
Mulenga has had a miserable year where he missed Zambia's successful 2012 AFCON campaign due to injury and in what should have been his return to the team, he missed the international friendly match away to South Korea due to his father's illness.
Renard said the national team players had a special bond and that was the reason Zambia won the Africa Cup because they were clearly not the best team.
He said it was that same bond that sees them play and fight for each other's cause such that even when they went to the Africa Cup with three injuries in the squad (Mulenga, William Njobvu and Thomas Nyirenda), the team went on to lift the trophy.