Fifa has apologised for its president Gianni Infantino’s failure to tour Malawi on Wednesday to inspect the world football governing body’s projects and inaugurate the upgraded Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.
The trip was cancelled at the eleventh hour reportedly because the plane used by the Fifa president and his delegation could not land at the partially closed Chileka International Airport in Blantyre due to safety reasons.
Soon after news filtered in of the failed visit, rumours started making rounds that Infantino had a change of heart after being alerted that his visit would be construed as endorsing Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu, who is seeking a fifth term when the association goes to the polls next month.
But Fifa spokesperson Alois Hug, in an email response, dispelled the assertions.
“The reasons are linked with unforeseen last-minute issues related with the airport in Chileka and the plane that the delegation was travelling on,” he said.
Hug further apologised for the inconvenience caused by the failed trip and said theFifa boss would visit Malawi during his next trip.
“The delegation regrets having to change their plan to visit Malawi, but the Fifa president looks forward to be able to visit the country in the next first opportunity,” he said.
Nyamilandu, a Fifa Council member, in an interview yesterday said Fifa’s response puts to rest rumours that Infantino did not plan to visit Malawi.
“This should prove to everyone that the real challenge was inability of the presidential jet to land at Chileka International Airport.
“The airport commandant
, whom we were in constant touch with, can attest to this fact,” said Nyamilandu.
The FAM president said he was optimistic that Infantino would honour his promise to personally inaugurate the Mpira Stadium which was upgraded using Fifa Forward funds.
“President Infantino is a man of his word and he will fulfil his commitment. The cancellation of the Fifa visit was in good faith and purely done for safety reasons.
“The renewed commitment by Fifa gives us encouragement that our ambition to have the Fifa president personally inaugurate Mpira Stadium will eventually materialise.
“Our dream is also to showcase celebrities like Samuel Eto’o to Malawi,” he said.
Nyamilandu, however, bemoaned the continued linking of Infantino’s visit to the upcoming FAM elections. Ironically, there were flyers in circulation on social media on Infantino’s visit with Nyamilandu’s campaign theme ‘Raising the Bar’ posted by the FAM president’s supporters.