Fifa, the governing body of world soccer, appointed Senegal’s Fatma Samoura as its new secretary general last Friday. Samoura becomes the first woman as well as the first African and non-European to ever hold the position.
She succeeds former secretary general Jerome Valcke, who was banned from football-related activity for 12 years for illegal sale of World Cup tickets.
The announcement was made by Fifa President Gianni Infantino at the 66th Fifa Congress in Mexico City. Samoura who is a 21-year old veteran of United Nations programs is currently the UN’s Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria.
"She has a proven ability to build and lead teams and improve the way organizations perform. Importantly for Fifa, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organization."
The soccer organization has been marred by corruption allegations under Valcke and previous president Sepp Blatter. Blatter stood down last year after leading Fifa since 1998 and was later suspended for six years for breaching ethics guidelines.
Infantino who took office in February said he would "work tirelessly to bring football back to Fifa and Fifa back to football".
According to Fifa president, Samoura’s lack of sports experience is an asset, especially as the body is addressing its credibility deficit.
“It is essential for FIFA to incorporate fresh perspectives (outside of the traditional pool of football executives) as we continue to restore and rebuild our organization,” Infantino said.
Samoura is ready to serve in the new role
Prior to joining the UN, the 54-year-old Samoura, who speaks French, English, Spanish, and Italian, worked in the fertilizer trading sector for Senchim, a subsidiary of Industries Chimiques du Senegal. The role called for her to manage product export and import programs, tenders, and the establishment of a national distribution network.
"Today is a wonderful day for me, and I am honored to take on this role," she said.
"This role is a perfect fit for my skills and experience - strategic, high-impact team building in international settings - which I will use to help grow the game of football all over the world.
"I also look forward to bringing my experience in governance and compliance to bear on the important reform work that is already underway at Fifa.
"Fifa is taking a fresh approach to its work - and I am eager to play a role in making that approach as effective and lasting as possible."
Addressing the gender gap
Fifa has been accused of blatant sexism in appointing its officials in the past. The appointment of the first woman to such a senior position will be embraced as a positive development. Fifa says the organization is addressing gender balance in soccer.
“We want to embrace diversity, and we believe in gender equality,” Infantino said.
Before her role is ratified, Samoura, will undergo an eligibility check. She is expected to take office in June following the announcement and not later as earlier indicated by Infantino.
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