Lilongwe, Nov 28 : The last-minute postponement of FIFA President Gianni Infantino's visit to Malawi over poor airport conditions has received mixed reactions from soccer lovers in the country.
The FIFA President was scheduled to visit the sub-Saharan country on Wednesday 27th November but a statement released Wednesday by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) announced the postponement of the visit citing security reasons. "We regrets to advise that the visit of FIFA President has been postponed due to the ongoing rehabilitation works at the Chileka International Airport main runway in Blantyre which makes it not possible for the Presidential Jet carrying the FIFA President and his entourage to land," reads part of the statement signed by FAM Secretary General, Alfred Gift Gunda.
He said 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. Gunda said suggestions were made to have the the FIFA President's plane land at Kamuzu International Airport in the capital, Lilongwe, and use other means to transport the delegation to Blantyre but it was all in vain due to the tight schedule of the FIFA President.
Blantyre is located approximately 340km away from the Kamuzu International Airport and the FIFA President was scheduled to inaugurate two FIFA-funded projects, a stadium and FAM Football Academy which were funded under Infantino's "FIFA Forward Initiative". The FIFA President was expected to arrive at Chileka Airport at 2PM local time and leave at 7PM local time for Democratic Republic of Congo.
"In light of this unfortunate development, FAM is closely collaborating with FIFA on rescheduling the visit to an earliest convenient date," said the FAM Secretary General in the statement. Four-time African footballer of the year, Samuel Eto'o, and Malawi's top football export, Ernest Mtawali, were also expected to headline the Mpira Stadium Inauguration match that was to be played on the sidelines of the FIFA President visit.
The postponement of Infantino's visit to Malawi has ignited mixed reactions from soccer loving Malawians with some blaming government for failing to improve the standards of the country's aviation infrastructure while others are blaming it on the ongoing post election tension and pockets of violence in the country. FAM is holding presidential election on December 14 with the incumbent president and FIFA council member, Walter Nyamilandu, seeking 5th term to run the country's soccer body.
Some soccer lovers' posts on social media believed that Infantino's visit would boost Nyamilandu's bid for fifth term and that the FIFA President's failure to land onto Malawi soil is a blow to the FAM president’s campaign.
Infantino was expected to jet in with a delegation of CAF President Ahmad, FIFA GS Fatma Samoura, FIFA Deputy General Secretary Football Mattias Grafstrom, FIFA Acting Head of Member Association, Veron Mosengo- Omba, FIFA Head of Communication Onofre Costa, FIFA President's Office Manager Federico Raviglione and FIFA Regional Development Officer David Fani. (UNI-XINHUA)