BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) - Police in Malawi used tear gas to quell protests against Walter Nyamilandu’s re-election as president of the country’s soccer federation.
Police told The Associated Press on Saturday angry supporters of losing candidate James Mwenda had burned tires and attempted to climb a fence of the lodge where the elections took place to beat up delegates who voted 23-13 in favor of Nyamilandu.
Eastern region police spokesperson Joseph Sauka confirmed the clashes took place but said no arrests were made after protesters sneaked past two road blocks in an attempt to reach the delegates, who were locked in a meeting room for their safety.
“There was indeed a fracas, luckily the police intervened and the elections continued,” Sauka told The AP.
The build up to the election was marred by clashes at match venues between supporters for Nyamilandu, a FIFA council member, and Mwenda which forced the Malawi National Council of Sports to have the two candidates sign a peace pact to tame their followers.
Pro-Mwenda followers released videos threatening to make Malawi football ungovernable if Nyamilandu were re-elected for a fifth four-year term, saying it was time for him to go because the sport had stagnated under his watch.
Mwenda conceded defeat saying: “The affiliates have spoken. I wish the president all the best for being re-elected. This is not the end of my football career. I am not lost from Malawi football.”
Tension began earlier this year when Nyamilandu announced he would not seek re-election only to make a U-turn when he won the FIFA Council post.
Nyamilandu’s critics say he has overstayed his welcome in office and that the national team’s performance has deteriorated under his watch.
However, Nyamilandu who was capped 12 times for Malawi and attended trials at Chelsea in the late 1990s, insists it is now time for the southern African country to benefit from his role at FIFA.
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