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‘Cleansing our Football’

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There is something curious and suspicious about football leaders’ culture of wanting to prolong their stay in power even when they have outlived their shelf life.

Joseph Sepp Blatter is a senile 79-year-old man but he doesn’t accept it. His stay at Fifa, which dates back 17 good years, has lately been characterised by the dirtiest of scandals in football. But if you ask Blatter, he will tell you he is as clean as a chin of a newborn.

Issa Hayatou has been around at the Confederation of African Football (Caf) since 1988. That is 27 years. Despite his dwindling influence and slow progress of African football, Hayatou does not appear like he will give way anytime soon.

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Here at home, Walter Nyamilandu has been at the helm of football administration for 12 years. But there is stagnation of football in this country. Shockingly, Nyamilandu believes he is the best thing ever to happen to local football administration and is determined to continue at Fam until kingdom come.

Tomorrow, Fam will go to the polls to elect their president and a lot has been said. Of all the things that have been said, I find most unconvincing the argument that Nyamilandu must not continue simply because he has overstayed at Chiwembe.

That argument obviously springs from utter jealousy than football interest. Nyamilandu is constitutionally allowed to continue and I have no problem with that. However, what I have serious problems with is that the 12 years Nyamilandu has been at the helm, Malawi’s football has been seized by palsy and there is no movement forward. Besides, there have been too many suspicious things taking place at Fam.

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It is an immutable and indelible fact that Nyamilandu came in at a time when the corporate world had severed any ties with football, and Nyamilandu led a tenacious campaign that saw sponsors relaxing their stance.

Nyamilandu has badges of pride to hold aloft such as the Fifa Goal Projects, Malawi’s national team’s and the Under-17’s qualification to the 2010 Afcon and 2009 Africa Youth Championship and World Youth Cup respectively. But recently, everything is there to show that something is seriously amiss at Fam.

After qualification for the 2010 edition of Afcon, the Flames have taken a steady downward spiral. They can’t even compete against teams in Cecafa and Cosafa regions. Junior national teams no longer participate in competitions. The last time a junior national team kicked the ball was in 2014 during the Under-20 Caf Youth Championship. The Under-23 slipped to obscurity a long time ago.

When Nyamilandu was assuming the presidency over a decade ago, he was always talking about commercialisation of football. He still talks about it now but is sounds more or less of a campaign mantra aimed at lulling people into believing that he now has a magic wand.

The question, however, is that if there has not been any meaningful movement towards commercialisation for the three terms he has called the shots at Fam, what can convince someone like me that the next four years Nyamilandu will make things happen?

Every year, Fam receives a lot of money from government and Fifa. But how that money is used remains mysterious. We are told of course, that Fam gets it accounts audited properly by reputable audit firms. But the question we should be posing is why are the reports always kept hidden from the public? There are surely some shenanigans taking place. I am told the reports are sent to Fifa and Fifa is said to be convinced with the way Fam manages its accounts. But who can trust Fifa these days?

Between 2010 and 2013, Fam was very reluctant to release reports on how the Puma replica-jersey sales were going. Everything, as it is always with Fam, was kept under wraps. And again this raises suspicion as to how clean Fam has been. Even now, we are still in the dark about the Umbro uniform deal.

Let us not sugar-coat the truth here. In the past decade there has been little show of financial honesty at Chiwembe. We even know how theft of gate collections has been encouraged systematically. Fam has been dosing while some grand fraud has been taking place at our football stadiums. Subsequently, teams have become poorer and by extension, football players have become the very symbols of poverty. Now, if Fam, has failed to manage basic demands of football like improving the welfare of players, what can make me believe that the current leadership needs more time?

Sadly, of the candidates that are vying for the Fam presidency, I do not see anyone that is inspiring confidence in me. What I have read from the manifestos is the same cheap talk that is there to hoodwink people. If you ask me why people are so interested in becoming Fam president, my easy take is that it is all about their personal glory and luxuries.

Of course we can waste paper and ink on what we think of Fam election since it is only 36 people that will cast the vote. And, from experience, 36 people can be easily manipulated and they will only vote for who manipulates them better other than who really has ideas that, when executed, will turn around our football fortunes.

I wish those 36 delegates who will be voting had the conscience to think about the poor man who walks from Mbayani to Kamuzu Stadium saving K1, 000 to watch football, yet that K1,000 is stolen by some greedy people who run football. Those that will be voting need to put themselves in the boots of our football players who always go home with holed pockets since nobody bothers to pay them as money goes missing all the time. I wish someone would remind those delegates that football has stagnated and we need to change by all means. Malawians have for long endured the embarrassing tag of having a national team that is a continental punching bag.

But I know football is a corrupt and crooked game and those running it have minds of their own. We must remember that world football’s image has recently been battered by Fifa’s Blatter and his mini-mes that closely work with him.

Blatter brought the football world to shame by creating a coterie with a mafia-like spirit that succeeded to turn football into a gravy train. The football world is going through serious cleansing of this clique and, as a football-loving nation, we cannot ignore this revolution process of removing bad eggs from our football. We have a chance now.

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