At long last. After months of debate on who is most suitable to lead Football Association of Malawi (FAM), the day of reckoning is finally here as the country’s soccer governing body goes to polls at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi in elections that have taken the country by storm.
On the surface, it is a battle to topple incumbent Walter Nyamilandu from Chiwembe’s most luxurious office with mahogany desk and a swivel chair.
But on a deeper level, it’s a battle of ideologies as some affiliates are calling for reforms at FAM to bring in challengers Wilkins Mijiga and Willy Yabwanya Phiri.
Leading the campaign for reforms is the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) who against all odds nominated Mijiga, a rank outsider and National Referees Football Association (NRFA) who opted to import Canada-based Yabwanya Phiri to challenge Nyamilandu.
Ironically, Sulom had to wait until the last day of the nominations to pick a candidate.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda’s simple response for nominating Mijiga as presidential candidate was that they wanted to enhance competition rather than having just two candidates.
The referees’ body on the other hand did not mince words and to put in general secretary Chris Kalichero’s words, ‘they did not want to be bulldozed’ on who to pick.
So the referees settled for Yabwanya, who was almost barred from contesting, if it was not for the appeals committee’s decision to overturn his disqualification.
Mijiga’s mission is to overhaul the whole system.
The marketer’s visions is to reform and transform Malawi football into a vibrant viable industry that generates real and tangible wealth for stakeholders in the football value chain.
“I will make FAM transparent by publishing its audited accounts every year, as a constitutional must, champion the cause of ring fencing corporate governance by abolishing Life Presidency at FAM by advocating for term limits and empowering the affiliates to be meeting FAM as a governing council at least three times in a year so that the FAM executive is held accountable to the people of Malawi for its actions,” explains Mijiga.
Yabwanya’s manifesto emphasises developing football from grass roots while engaging partners to pump in funds for youth development programmes.
Having been at the helm of Karonga football, one of the bedrocks of raw talent, Yabwanya is of the view that he is of age and ready to take the bigger mantle.
“Having been at the centre of football development in Karonga District for the past seven years as CEO, owner and sponsor of Yabwanya FC and Karonga United, I have seen and experienced how fast Malawi soccer has deteriorated over the years. Inadequate sponsorship at regional and national level, lack of development at grassroots level, financial mismanagement and corruption, lack of accountability and transparency have destroyed our football,” Yabwanya explains.
The incumbent, Nyamilandu has opted to base his manifesto on past achievements and a promise to continue the mission.
He claims to have taken over FAM at a time when football administration was in the dustbin and transformed Chiwembe into an institution that has today attracted top marketers like Mijiga to contest for the presidency position.
“The tremendous strides that have been made to develop the game of football at grass root level and to restore the image of the beautiful game are largely due to team work and goodwill from sponsors. Having come this far, my desire to stand for another term of office is based on the need for continuity to enable me complete some of the unfinished business with the view to leaving the game of football not only in a good state but also in safe hands,” asserts Nyamilandu.
For the first time in the history of FAM, the elections will be held using a secret ballot.
Unlike in the past when chairperson would supervise who the delegates from their association had voted for, this time ballot boxes will be in the polling booth.
If the FAM elections were like the national polls, some of the candidates could have been outright dismissed to flop, but when its 36 votes from nine affiliates that will decide the future of Malawi football, stakeholders like government, sponsors and football diehards can only sit back and keep fingers crossed as they wait for the white smoke to come out of the Nkopola Lodge conference room.
Yabwanya yesterday said while he is set for the polls, he feels the election has been compromised in many ways.
“So far so good, as I am doing my final preparations. However, the election has been compromised in so many ways especially due to the many games FAM secretariat has been playing to jeopardise the whole process. It is very unfortunate that the voters’ roll was not released on time.
“Prior to the polls, it was very depressing to note that some affiliates failed to attend manifesto launches of some presidential candidates despite being invited. Nevertheless, I hope everything will go on well this Saturday,” Yabwanya said.
On his part, Nyamilandu said: “Team Walter will emerge victorious. We are optimistic that we will carry the day.
“We have had a wonderful campaign, a colourful launch and a successful debate.”
Mijiga could not be reached for comment.
Sulom contributes the highest number of affiliates (eight), followed by the three regional associations (six each) while National Women Football Association (NWFA), NFRA, National Youth Football Association (NYFA), National Football Coaches Association (NFCA) and Beach Soccer Association (BSA) contribute two delegates each. n