Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu is a sweet talker. He speaks in assured and pleasing fashion that could even charm top Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie.
For weeks, the FAM boss and his general secretary (GS) Alfred Gunda succeeded in keeping the identity of the Flames expatriate coach under tight wraps.
Even when their South African counterparts—South Africa Football Association (Safa)—released the list of coaches they were courting for the Bafana Bafana job, FAM still kept it a guarded secret.
And they were not just ordinary coaches. They included Roberto Mancini, Giovanni Trapattoni, Hassan Shehata, Stuart Baxter, Hugo Broos, Muhsin Ertugral, Samson Siasia, Lothar Mattheus and Bernd Schuster.
“Not at this stage. Unfortunately some of the candidates are employed, so we have to keep confidentiality,” insisted Nyamilandu in an interview a couple of weeks ago. Quite a satisfactory response, but far from being convincing.
But even when it was clear that FAM had identified their ‘chosen one’, they still kept his identity under wraps.
“We would want it to come as a surprise,” said Nyamilandu in a follow up interview on April 1.
And considering the secrecy that surrounded the hiring of the expatriate coach, one would have been tempted to think that perrhaps it was someone in the class of the ‘special one’ Jose Mourinho, the maverick Antonio Conte or Pep Guardiola.
FAM then went a bit too far in keeping the information undercover and as a result, what followed was sheer comedy.
Barely days after the FAM GS unveiled Gerald Phiri as head coach with DeKlerk Msakakuona as his assistant, his boss Nyamilandu came out of his shell to ‘clarify’ that his GS made a mistake and that, instead, it would be an expatriate who would be in charge.
Secrecy breeds confusion and suspicion and it became clear that FAM was losing the plot.
Even on the day that the ‘chosen one’ Ronny van Geneugden arrived in the country, FAM had still not revealed his identity and it took The Nation and the Daily Times special investigations to reveal his identity.
Why was FAM keeping the identity of the coach under wraps even when it was clear they had settled for him?
If he was contracted to another team, it would have been understandable as that could have jeorpadised his job. But here was a man who has been jobless since 2014.
It was such unnecessary secrecy that bred speculation and suspicion that there might have been something going on behind the scenes.
Perhaps this is why renowned analyst and former FAM GS Charles Nyirenda summed it up by faulting the entire recruitment process.
“I think it is completely wrong to hide the identity of the coach FAM is hiring because that is public information. No interviews, then hiding the identity also doesn’t augur well for FAM’s image in terms of corporate governance that promotes transparency and accountability.
“Look, South Africa is negotiating with Stuart Baxter and he will be getting R1 million rand if successful. They are very open about it; no secrets like it is happening here,” he said.
But as expected, Nyamilandu’s sweet talk was at play again as he unveiled van Geneugden at a press conference last Saturday: “There was a lot of guessing, but finally we have found the man we were looking for, the man is van Geneugden.”