By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
LILONGWE - The Malawi Football Association president, Walter Nyamilandu, became the first Malawian to be elected to the FIFA Council at a special sitting of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The FAM boss had defied a snub by the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) which had opted for his South African counterpart, Danny Jordaan, as its candidate.
Nyamilandu defeated Jordaan by 35 votes to 18 after two rounds of voting. The pair had been in a three-way vote along with former Tanzania Football Federation president Leodgar Tenga, who dropped out in the first round.
Nick Mwendwa, the president of Kenya's Football Federation and Elvis Chetty, president of the Seychelles FA, both withdrew from the election before the first round.
The result has been a surprise as Nyamilandu floored Jordan, the chief organiser of the FIFA 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.
Beaming with excitement, Nyamilandu told the press that it had always been his dream to serve at the top of football administration, which is FIFA.
“I am excited to be elected on to the FIFA Council because it has always been my wish,” he said.
In an interview from Egypt, Nyamilandu told The Nation newspaper: “God is great. I feel favoured and honoured with the new position on the FIFA Council.
“It’s a dream come true and I am delighted as this reflects positively on my country. My hard work in football has finally paid off and it has caught the attention of African football leaders. I am a proud Malawian and a proud African ready to serve the interests of Africa to the best of my ability.
“I [also] owe it to football officials in Malawi that have shown tremendous trust in my leadership and to the fans for their support to Malawi football that I serve.”
Asked how this reflects on the COSAFA bloc who voted for Jordaan as its representative during elections held last month, Nyamilandu said: “It’s good that COSAFA has still won the seat through me.
“We did not lose it, but we secured the seat and that was the most important thing. Otherwise, we could have lost it had we settled for a wrong candidate.”
Jordan demonstrated sportsmanship by conceding defeat and congratulated Nyamilandu.
“I am very disappointed that I failed to win the election. I wish Nyamilandu the best of luck at the council,” he told the press.
The FAM president competed as an underdog as he faced tough competition against the favourites, Jordan and veteran Tanzanian soccer official, Leodegar Tenga.
The two also serve on the continental football governing body, CAF's Executive Committee.
Nyamilandu fills up the vacant post left by Ghanaian Kwesi Nyantakyi who resigned in June after being accused of receiving bribes
Nyantakyi was fired after he was filmed by an investigative journalist appearing to take a $65,000 bribe from a supposed businessman. But Nyantakyi has always denied any wrongdoing.
The election was held before FIFA President Gianni Infantino who congratulated the former Flames’ defender for emerging winner.
Meanwhile, football commentator Higger Mkandawire has congratulated Nyamilandu saying he must use the post to promote football in the country.
The FIFA Council is the main decision-making arm of world football's governing body, with members drawn from each of the sport's regional confederations.
Nyantakyi left his role on the FIFA Council and stepped aside from his roles with CAF, including as first vice-president, the most senior figure at the confederation after its president, Ahmad.
As well as the FIFA suspension, Nyantakyi also resigned as president of the Ghana FA on 8 June following an executive committee meeting.
Nyamilandu’s win comes at a time when some concerned supporters were calling for his resignation for poor adminstration.
Football analyst, Felix Ngamanya Sapao, described Nyamilandu’s election in the press as good for Malawi because of the influence that the council has.
“It is not easy to make it into the FIFA Council. It shows that he is a good administrator and the reforms he has undertaken at FAM are a testimony to this,” he said.