FAM has distanced itself from Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s failed visit, saying the local football governing body was not involved in the logistics.
Infantino’s highly anticipated tour of Malawi was yesterday cancelled at the eleventh hour after it emerged that the plane the world football governing body chartered could not land at the partially closed Chileka International Airport in Blantyre.
Alternative efforts to have the Fifa delegation fly in through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe also failed.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda was responding to a question on why they did not advise Fifa in time on the situation at the airport
“The situation was way beyond our control. Fifa has its aviation team which was dealing with Malawi’s Department of Civil Aviation at that level.
“As FAM, all we got was a notice that Malawi is one of the countries the Fifa president would be visiting and what our role would be as the host FA,” he said.
On the costs, Gunda said as a Fifa event, the world football governing body was responsible for the expenses.
The Fifa president was expected to visit Malawi to inspect Fifa projects and inaugurate the upgraded Mpira Stadium at Chiwembe in Blantyre.
However, it was never to be as the Fifa Aviation team cancelled the trip due to safety reasons.
A statement issued yesterday morning, signed by Gunda, reads: “After carrying out a full assessment of the secondary runway, Fifa Aviation at the last minute ruled that they couldn’t take a chance to land at Chileka Airport for safety reasons.
“Alternative efforts to have the plane land at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe and use other means to transport the delegation to Blantyre were not successful due to the tight schedule of the Fifa president, who was expected to arrive in the country at 2pm and leave at 7pm for Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Chileka Airport commandant Diexie Kwatani yesterday confirmed having informed Fifa about the situation at the airport.
“We told them that the main runway was closed and is under maintenance, but there is another runway which is operational, but they did not revert to us. Maybe the plane which they are using could not land,” he said.
FAM has since indicated that the trip will be rescheduled.
“In light of this unfortunate development, FAM is closely collaborating with Fifa on rescheduling the visit to an earliest convenient date. We remain hopeful that this will materialise, having received the assurance from Fifa,” the statement added.
The programme for the event included a match between FAM and Fifa officials against Flames former players.
Four-time African footballer of the year Samuel Eto’o was expected to lead the Fifa team which would also feature Infantino and FAM president Walter Nyamilandu, Flames coach Meck Mwase and his assistants Lovemore Fazili and Bob Mpinganjira as well as Malawi Under-20 coach and former Flames captain Peter Mponda.
Flames legend Ernest Mtawali was to feature in the Flames legends team alongside Patrick Mabedi, Chance Gondwe, Swadick Sanudi, Joseph Kamwendo and Fischer Kondowe, among others.
All the delegates except the Fifa president and his entourage, were already in Blantyre for the event when news filtered in that the function had been cancelled after the plane failed to get permission to land at Chileka International Airport which is partially closed, especially to big aircrafts.
The only option was for the Fifa president to come on a small plane, but it was too late to charter as well, prompting the organisers to cancel the event.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda, who is also former FAM general secretary, said the association had missed an opportunity.
“To have a Fifa president visit you, presents a lot of opportunities. It gave FAM and government to discuss how to develop football in the country,” he said.