FIFA appoint Fatma Samoura as first female secretary general
MEXICO CITY -- FIFA's corruption crisis was declared to be over by President Gianni Infantino on Friday as the scandal-battered governing body broke new ground by appointing a Senegalese United Nations official as its first female and first non-European secretary general.
Fatma Samoura has no experience working in sports but Infantino hopes that will help it try to regain the trust and credibility of the world after far-reaching corruption, bribery, and financial misconduct.
The organisation also swelled to 211 members after Gibraltar and Kosovo were admitted.
"Nobody can change the past but I can shape the future," Infantino told his first FIFA Congress as president since succeeding the banned Sepp Blatter. "FIFA is back on track. So I can officially inform you here, the crisis is over."
Blatter also said in December 2014 that "the crisis has stopped" after previous bribery cases. But within a year 42 officials and entities linked to soccer were indicted in an American investigation into bribery and corruption.
The 54-year-old Samoura will replace the fired Jerome Valcke, who was banned from all football-related activity for 12 years for misconduct, if she passes an eligibility check. She is currently working in development for the U.N. in Nigeria.
"We want to embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality," Infantino said.
Samoura is currently working in development for the U.N. in Nigeria.
"Today is a wonderful day for me, and I am honored to take on the role of FIFA's Secretary General," Samoura said in a statement. "I believe 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."
FIFA expects her to start work at its Zurich headquarters in mid-June, with just a year until Russia hosts the Confederations Cup, the 2018 World Cup warm-up event, and ongoing concerns about preparations for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
"She is used to managing big organisations, big budgets, human resources, finance," Infantino told FIFA's membership. "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."
In a shakeup of FIFA designed by a reforms panel in the wake of scandals, a separation of powers is being implemented that is intended to hand the CEO-like secretary general control of business operations.
"I don't know her at all but I think it's a very important gesture toward gender equity, to recognising other continents, and apparently she is a formidable personality," said Francois Carrard, who headed the panel.
Samoura, who speaks French, English, Spanish, and Italian, appears to have no experience dealing with commercial deals and broadcasters -- a key part of the job as FIFA's top administrator. Infantino appears to have more experience in those areas, given he was elected FIFA president in February after nine years leading UEFA's business operations as general secretary.
Asked about her lack of business experience, Carrard said: "The operations will be done by the whole management."
FIFA pointed to Samoura's experience coordinating the activities of around 2,000 U.N. staff with oversight over security in Nigeria.
"She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organizations perform," Infantino said. "Importantly for FIFA, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation."
Also on Friday, FIFA lifted Indonesia's suspension from world football. Indonesian national and club teams, referees, and officials were banned over government interference in the running of the national federation.
Indonesia was readmitted after the government agreed to end its suspension of the football federation, but the national team has missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup while banned.
Benin joined Kuwait in being suspended due to government interference in their federations' independence.