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How Walter Nyamilandu pulled it off

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By Peter Kanjere:

If you asked former president of Egypt Anwar Sadat (now deceased) about some of his principles, he would tell you that a person must have a sense of proportion and an ability to seize opportunities.

It was like Sadat wrote this principle for Football Association of Malawi (Fam) president Walter Nyamilandu who is now dining at the highest table of world football.

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From the very same cradle of civilisation, Nyamilandu seized his moment, stepping into the corridors of influence in world football after being voted as a Fifa Council member, beating South Africa Football Association president, Danny Jordaan, 35-18 after two rounds of voting.

It was an absolute stunner of the biblical David-versus- Goliath proportions.

Authoritative football website www.ghanasoccernet. com on October 3 2018 said the Malawian’s win had “sent African football politics’ observers scratching their heads over why the man [Jordaan] touted as one of the finest brains failed in Egypt.”

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With that, the Fam president had weathered the latest storm that threatened to ruin his career back home, silenced his critics and scaled the highest heights for a Malawian football administrator.

Nyamilandu has always been at the right time and has the ambition to sniff at opportunities—right from his days as a player for Wanderers and the national team.

After retiring from playing, Nyamilandu started off his football administration career as Wanderers team manager. A few years later, he took advantage of the leadership crisis at Fam to become president.

He came just at the right time just when Fam affiliates and the entire football fraternity expected something and someone new to offer hope and direction to an association that had plunged deep into a constitutional crisis amid reports of financial mismanagement.

That was 14 years ago and now Nyamilandu has grown in stature, outsmarting his opponents at home with telling ease and found his feet on the often slippery terrain of international football.

Nyamilandu had the first-hand experience of how slippery the terrain is when he lost in his bid for a Caf Executive Committee seat, crying foul that everything seemed staged during the contest.

He must have learnt that positions in football are earned by invitation. It is a club and you only win if you are invited.

Nyamilandu’s shock victory clearly suggests that he had the backing of the highest authorities in international football.

An African football analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that one of the reasons Nyamilandu won was because he ticked in all the boxes.

“Walter was a splendid fit in the mix -young, unaffected by the past, malleable and ready to submit to team spirit and voice. It was a choice that paid off and along with Nigeria’s Pinnick they can provide Ahmad with the regional cover he surely desires and needs in these trying times when the Caf leadership is desperately mending fences with Fifa President Gianni Infantino after the fiasco of the 2026 World Cup bid.

“While Ahmad unabashedly threw his weight behind Morocco, his charmed bride till date, Infantino had no pretence that he was backing the US bid even as he spared the thought of a risky re-election. Now Africa and Ahmad have gone full circle to back him and if you look deeply in this turn around you see the hand of Zimbabwe’s strongman and king maker [Paul Chiyangwa]. Interestingly, Walter finds a place in the heart of the Zimbabwe game changer,” he said.

The Ghanaian website cited miscalculation, lack of unity in South Africa and Cosafa, overconfidence, weak campaign team, failure to consult widely and supporting the United States and Canada at the expense of Morocco in the 2026 World Cup bid as among the chief reasons for Jordaan’s downfall.

The theory about the voting patterns for the World Cup bid seems to make sense as Nyamilandu voted for the Morocco bid and, since his election, Ahmad has been in very good books with Morocco.

That Morocco found Malawi a good partner is evident in the fact that the North Africans hosted the Flames and other national teams and also offered to construct a technical centre in Lilongwe.

It is possible that Ahmad threw his weight behind Nyamilandu and that Jordaan was viewed otherwise for having opted for the United States and Canada bid at the expense of that of fellow African country.

“No need to follow the crowd. Africa must have self-belief that we can excel and do better than the West. South Africa proved it in 2010. I cannot abandon my roots. I am an African and I will remain loyal to my country forever,” Nyamilandu tweeted on June 13 2018 ahead of the voting.

Therefore, while Nyamilandu received four votes, three behind Cosafa’s first-choice candidate Jordaan, the Malawian had done his homework across the continent beyond Anglophone countries.

“Relatively, I still have the numbers. What happened at Cosafa was about the majority decision but it does not mean that I do not have support elsewhere. I always knew that Cosafa’s vote was split. My strength is not in Cosafa but in other zones [in Africa]. There is Cecafa, Central, West A and B and the North Zone,” Nyamilandu said.

There is no doubt that Nyamilandu has completed the full circle as a player and now as an administrator of international repute. Timing is everything for this charismatic man.

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