The world football governing body FIFA has appointed a United Nations official as its first female and first non-European secretary general.
The ground-breaking move came Friday during FIFA Congress in Mexico City where Fatma Samoura, a Senegalese diplomat of the UN, was named as the first female secretary general in the traditionally male-dominated world football organization.
“We want to embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told members of the body, expressing hope that the historic move could help the body to regain international trust and credibility:
Samoura, 54, who is currently working in development for the UN in Nigeria, will replace fired Jerome Valcke if she passes an eligibility check. She was Infantino’s choice and was approved by a FIFA supervising council before Friday’s announcement.
“She will bring a fresh wind to FIFA — somebody from outside not somebody from inside, not somebody from the past. Somebody new, somebody who can help us do the right thing in the future,” Infantino said, adding, “She is used to managing big organizations, big budgets, human resources, finance.”
Samoura is also the first non-European to take on as secretary general in FIFA, a key role that is closely linked to the powerful body’s commercial deals and broadcasters. Her profile includes proficiency in French, English, Spanish, and Italian, a major compensation for her lack of experience in dealing with financial affairs.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the second day of the 66th FIFA Congress at the Centro Banamex in Mexico City on May 13, 2016. (AFP photo)
Infantino said the UN official has a record of monitoring and evaluating the security, political, and socio-economic situation and trends in Africa’s most populous country, insisting that this background could help her coordinate the activities of around 2,000 staff members in FIFA.
“She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organizations perform,” Infantino said, adding, “Importantly for FIFA, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organization.”
FIFA has been reeling from a string of corruption cases against its former and current officials. Infantino, himself a secretary general at European football watchdog UEFA since 2009, was picked as FIFA chief in late February, replacing corruption-tainted Sepp Blatter, who ruled FIFA from 1998 to 2015.