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So what’s in Fam presidency?

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Before 2004, the name of Walter Nyamilandu was fading into insignificance. Until December 12, 2015, Wilkins Mijiga was just another respected figure in the corporate world. And Willy Yabwanya Phiri hardly ‘existed’.

But now if a research was done, probably five in every 10 Malawians would recognise Nyamilandu’s voice and face. Maybe two in every 10 ordinary persons would ‘know’ Mijiga, and the name Yabwanya could ring a bell in one in every 10 people. That is what football can do.

No other platform, let alone discipline, elevates people’s profile flatteringly granting the direct access to talk to over seven million people glued to newspapers, radio and television.

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Only sports, football does.

Even late Nelson Mandela recognised the power of sports, and most importantly football.

“While we were at Robben Island…football was the only joy to prisoners,” the fallen South African was quoted on Fifa website.

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As witnessed during the bruising Football Association of Malawi (Fam) December 12, 2015, elections, beyond serving the country through football, there is something that the candidates, especially for the presidency, were motivated to fight for.

Prior to the December elections, former Fam president, Geoff Gondwe, while not privy to the current state of affairs at the FA, gave a hint of what is at stake.

“It is clear from their campaigns strategies that the candidates are motivated by the high public status of Fam president with the fringe benefits and privileges attached to the position,” Gondwe explained.

The benefits are not visible, but they are there. A former Fam president, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted such a position guarantees ‘free’ holidays and global-trotting, sometimes earning $100 (K62,000) per day on a fully-funded trip.

Dean Pinto has served football as a player, coach and official to grasp the football happenings beyond the sugar-coated “I want to transform Malawi football’ jazz that every Fam presidential hopeful sings.

“The presidency of Fam comes with its power and the ability to influence things and situations, including politics. The financial rewards in terms of direct rewards apart from travel and allowances—, is limited,” Pinto explained.

Pinto is spot-on. Not even a state President has the emotions on the entire nation from Nsanje to Chitipa for an entire two hours as football does.

With such influence, a Fam president becomes the custodian of a nation’s passion and emotions. Gaining fame is inevitable.

With that comes power even politicians are sensitive to the passions of football. Little wonder, some politicians such as Brown Mpinganjira, Harry Thomson and Bakili Muluzi and late John Zingale learnt or mastered the art of politics through football.

Being a Fam president means controlling a sector worth K500 million every season generated through sponsorships, grants, gate collections, broadcasting rights, merchandise and donations. Additionally, Fifa gives Fam an annual grant of $250,000.

And unlike in other sectors, the checks and balances in football are loose. Those that are supposed to ensure transparency are the compromised affiliates.

“Annual funding from Fifa is also quite a motivation considering that the appropriation of the annual funding is at Fam’s discretion although prior approval from Fifa is a condition for disbursement,” Gondwe noted.

Pinto cannot agree more on why the Fam presidency is the most lucrative.

“However, the opportunity to reward oneself through the finances football generates is enormous. Therefore, very few people would be genuine in saying ‘I do it just for the love of football’. It is the transparency in utilising these opportunities that tend to end up as a problem as is now being exposed at Fifa.”

There is a lot at stake in the Fam presidency. From an outsider’s point of view, what is at stake remains invisible. Although the fringe benefits of being at the helm of football cannot be disputed, those holding the positions, would rightly so, stress on their will to serve as the motivation for seeking the highest position in Malawi’s football.

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