A mixture of euphoria and optimism has swept through the local football governing body’s corridors as FAM goes to the polls today to elect new office bearers to be entrusted with the running of the game for the next four years.
The setting is Sunbird Nkopola along the shores of Lake Malawi in Mangochi where 36 Football Association of Malawi (FAM) affiliates will cast their votes for the new eight-member FAM executive committee that will be joined by Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president Tiya Somba Banda and National Women’s Football Association chairperson Suzgo Ngwira as ex officio members.
Highlighting the polls will be the battle for the hot seat of presidency which will feature friends turned foes—the incumbent Walter Nyamilandu and his first vice-president James Mwenda.
Never has the association’s polls generated so much hype and tension in recent years and a lot has happened behind the scenes in the build-up and, in some cases, ugly scenes have been witnessed.
But at last, this is it! All the waiting is about to come to an end; all the contrasting emotions are being defined today.
Nyamilandu, who will be seeking a fifth term, having been at the helm for the past 15 years, appeared an oasis of calm when Weekend Nation sought his views on how he rates his chances.
“I am on my guard and well-prepared to defend my position by leveraging on my experience as a seasoned campaigner. I am mentally, physically and spiritually ready for the showdown,” he said, exuding a relaxed, affable charm and a booming smile.
But when put to him that facing his once right-hand man, coupled with concerns raised by a section of the soccer fraternity that he has been at the helm of local football for far too long, could be his drawback, in his eyes, where a few seconds ago, a warmth and humour sparkled, there was a sudden spark of emotion and intensity.
“I have overwhelming support because of my proven good leadership qualities as I have been tried and tested to the extent that football is now a viable concern despite facing a lot of adversities and challenges,” he said.
“This time around, the choice of affiliates is very simple between two candidates and it is all about choosing a credible, knowledgeable, respectable and experienced leader and there is no shed of doubt among the affiliates that I fit the bill in all respects.”
On why he is seeking a fifth term, Nyamilandu said he would like to embark on new transformational projects as well as complete some of the unfinished milestones from his “Harvest Time” manifesto.
“I am in a better and stronger position than ever to undertake projects of this nature while serving as Fifa Council member, drawing from the new connections I have carved on the international platform. With this Fifa position, I would be able to lobby for more support towards Malawi football,” he said.
On the other hand, Mwenda sounded ice-cool in an interview from Lilongwe. There was no hint of nerves from his hoarse voice as he spoke, just a tone of a man oozing confidence.
He said: “I am happy with the campaign. So far so good, I have enjoyed good support from the affiliates, who I have worked with all this time. Even the manifesto, which we have, the affiliates were consulted and I have worked with them all through; there is no committee which I have not approached. It is time to change the leadership and that is why, come Saturday, affiliates will overwhelmingly vote for me.”
Mwenda said he is a tried and tested administrator, who has been in various positions from district to national levels and this is the only time for the affiliates to have one of their own as FAM president; “someone who knows their problems even before they present them on the table”.
On whether he faced any challenges in the run up to today’s elections, Mwenda said: “No. I am not a cry baby. I have been concentrating on my game. I did not and I do not have any problem. I have received support from people of all walks of life.”
The outgoing FAM first veep said he is confident of winning as he has practically approached every affiliate member, not only those on the voting list.
“I have a very good relationship with them. I have their contacts, I know where they stay and I have interacted with them,” he said.
“All that I ask the affiliates that are going to vote is that they should have trust in me. If they do that, they will vote for a leader that will take Malawi football to another level. Football can only improve if we work collectively. I will not be the boss but the servant and whatever is in my manifesto will be delivered.”
The FAM first vice-president further said that he believes that he will change the face of Malawi football, arguing the country cannot have good football at elite level unless it is taken to districts and zones saying if that end is improved, it will go all the way.
The position of first vice-president will also be a two-horse race, featuring Daud Mtanthiko and Jabbar Alide, who are executive members in the outgoing committee.
Similarly, the position of second vice-president has incumbent Othaniel Hara and Northern Region Football Association chairperson Lameck Khonje.also attracted two contenders—
Only one contestant Felistas Dossi, who was nominated by almost all affiliates, will have the luxury of being ushered in unopposed for the newly-created female executive member position while six male candidates—Muhammad Selemani, Rashid Mtelera, Christopher Kuyera, Davies Saddo, Masiya Nyasulu and Chimango Munthali will tussle for four slots.
Of these, only Mtelera will be seeking re-election.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said: “This election, especially the presidency, is not easy to call as it is more of a family affair. This is probably one of the toughest elections in the history of FAM as it pits ‘brothers’ fighting for supremacy amongst relations.”
“The battle is twofold. Both camps have got different agendas where one group is for continuity and the other just for change of leadership. The voting pattern will not be in line with the manifestos of the candidates. The affiliates already decided on who to vote for even before the manifestos were unveiled,” he said.