As the campaign for hosting the 2026 World Cup, which pits Morocco against a joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada gathers momentum, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has said it will endorse neither of the two bids.
Initially, Fifa general secretary Fatma Samoura had sent a circular to all member associations forbidding them from endorsing the bid, but last week the world football governing body changed tune and wrote associations, allowing endorsements.
Other African countries such as Botswana, Nigeria, Tunisia and Algeria as well as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad, have already endorsed the North African nation’s bid.
But FAM, though already having signed a memorandum of understanding [MoU] with Royal Morocco Football
Federation [RMFF] in which RMFF will construct a technical centre in Lilongwe, among other offers, is coy on the matter.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu refused to disclose his position on whether to support Morocco or US-Mexico-Canada’s joint bid.
“It’s better to keep my perception confidential; otherwise, I would prejudice the outcome,” he said.
Nyamilandu’s position comes after he and some members of the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) last week met the US-Mexico-Canada joint bid campaign chief Sunil Gulati in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Gulati took advantage of the Cosafa general assembly to organise a parallel meeting with selected association heads, including Nyamilandu.
This has sparked criticism from the Moroccans since their bid committee chairperson Moulay Hafid Elalamy was banned from doing the same when they hosted CAF assembly in Casablanca last month.
But Fifa, in a twist of events changed the guidelines in a letter to member associations which Weekend Nation has seen.
The letter says the ethics’ committee advisory “will allow such presentations at meetings of regional associations, groupings of member associations and individual member associations provided the principles of fairness and transparency are respected.”
The letter further reads: “In such cases please notify Fifa in writing about any such request from a bidder. Please also accept the offer of a presentation by the competitive bidder, offering both bidders the same format and attendance,” Samoura added.
Nyamilandu confirmed attending the US bid meeting, adding that Morocco will also make their presentation.
He said: “I am not sure what happened with Fifa and CAF but I have no doubt that the authorities want a fair and transparent bidding process. For this reason, authorities will allow both Morocco and USA an opportunity to make their presentations to allow member associations to make an informed decision. As Cosafa, we agreed to invite Morocco to present its bid before the Fifa Congress.”
Director of sports in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Jameson Ndalama, who represented Malawi government in the MoU signing between FAM and RMFF, said FAM was at liberty to endorse any bid since the agreement had nothing to do with the 2026 World Cup.
“Much as we as Ministry of Sports just played a role of an adviser to FAM during the signing of the agreement, there was nothing to do with World Cup bidding in the MoU. Maybe that is why FAM does not feel obliged to endorse Morocco’s bid openly if they are not comfortable. Maybe US has promised them something better,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that FAM was trying to play its cards carefully.
“Despite signing an MoU with Morocco, FAM is treading carefully, fully aware of the politics that is involved in these issues. World Cup bidding and voting involves a lot of dirty football politics. Remember, most of the scandals at Fifa had something to do with World Cup bids,” he said.
Bidding for the 2026 Fifa World Cup was postponed due to the 2015 corruption case and the subsequent resignation of Sepp Blatter. It was restarted in 2016 after the bidding process was changed to consist of four phases.
Fifa members will make a decision at the 68th Congress in Moscow, Russia on June 13.