World football governing body Fifa president Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Infantino is expected to visit Malawi next Wednesday and FAM president Walter Nyamilandu has said the visit has nothing to do with FAM elections slated for December 14.
The Fifa boss’ impending visit will come barely two weeks before Football Association of Malawi (FAM) elections, that will see Nyamilandu, who is also Fifa Council member, battling it out for the hot-seat against his first vice-president James Mwenda.
But on Wednesday Nyamilandu, who is seeking a fifth tenure, dismissed fears on the coincidence of Infantino’s visit with the FA’s polls, saying the trip has been on the cards for a long time.
“His visit has nothing to do with [football] politics. I made a request to him earlier in the year to inaugurate the Mpira Stadium and we have been waiting for his response. He is a very busy man as he travels around the world on numerous football missions and we are honoured that he is finally able to spare his precious time.
“We should, therefore, take this historic visit positively and leave politics aside. Malawi will have the attention of the world during his visit and this will put Malawi on the map,” he said.
FAM general secretary (GS) Alfred Gunda agreed with Nyamilandu thatInfantino’s visit is only meant to assess Fifa projects and the state of football in the country.
“Infantino’s visit aims at appreciating the football development programmes and projects as initiated by his vision in the Fifa Forward Programme. As FAM, we are honoured to host the global football leader,” he said.
“In fact, he is touring this part of the world as a global leader of the game and he will visit a number of countries. If you search the Fifa website, you will note the countries he is visiting on this leg.”
However, he said FAM will share in due course more details about the programme
“FAM is extremely delighted with the historic visit of the Fifa president and we are looking forward to hosting the most powerful man in football to the Warm Heart of Africa,” Gunda wrote in a statement released yesterday.
This week, according to Fifa website, Infantino is visiting the Caribbean and Central American countries and he arrived in Costa Rica where he held fruitful talks with the Costa Rica football leadership as well as the president of the republic before seeing first-hand the Costa Rica Football Federation’s first-class football infrastructure.
Football analyst George Kaudza-Masina said people should not read too much on the Fifa president’s visit and the FAM polls because FAM GS has already explained that the purpose of the visit is to inspect Fifa projects in Malawi.
“But besides that, the visit might also be used to drum up support for Nyamilandu. They [Nyamilandu and Infantino] are all in Fifa Council and helping a brother might not be a problem, suffice to say this visit should not be seen as a campaign for Nyamilandu,” he said.
Kaudza-Masina explained that a Fifa president’s visit to an association is always on purpose and the last time former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter visited Malawi was to inspect the FAM secretariat as he was drumming up support for his re-election.
In a statement, dated November 14 2019, about his visit, Infantino says he is looking forward to meeting the members of the Malawian football community and government officials.
“It will be a unique opportunity to visit the various infrastructure projects carried out to share our vision of football and ways to further develop our game in your country and promote its values. I have no doubt this visit will strengthen our ties and enable us continue working together to accomplish these objectives,” reads part of the statement.
This is the first time, in 17 years, that Fifa president is visiting the country as Blatter was in a similar mission in 2002.