Senegal’s Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura has been appointed as Fifa’s first female secretary general, and for an organisation that has been accused in the past of being ‘blatantly sexist’, the appointment of the first woman to such a senior position will be seen as a positive move.
With new reforms limiting the powers of the Fifa president, Ms Samoura arguably becomes the most important figure in world football. Effectively the chief executive of the governing body, she will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the organisation as it attempts to recover from the corruption crisis that has threatened its very existence.
Samoura, 54, is married with three children and has spent 21 years working for the United Nations. She is regarded as the most senior UN official in Nigeria until she takes on the position at Fifa this July. Her role in the UN (among many other things) consists of providing support and guidance to seven United Nations agencies and over 40 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in eastern Chad. She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve performance is big organisations. Importantly for Fifa, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation.
What will a female general secretary mean for Fifa?
As much as Fatma Samoura’s gender shouldn’t be the main talking point of her appointment over her capability; it cannot be ignored that this is a historical mark in football’s history, and history alone. Along with being the first woman to hold the position, Samoura is also the first non-European to be appointed FIFA’s secretary general.
Three positive changes I expect:
- 1. A clamp down corruption – Samoura’s integrity and leadership skills should help the organisation re-establish some of the trust and credibility it lost in the wake of widespread corruption and bribery allegations that came to a head early this year.
- 2. More support for women’s professional football – Currently women’s soccer players are paid poorly because of a patriarchal funding model — not because their game is inferior. With Samoura’s attempts to restore football to a popular sport that breaches social divides, the disparity in funding Women’s Football cannot go unattended. She vowed herself to bring greater support to women’s football.
- 3. Better bridges built for African football – As Senegalese secretary general, Samoura will be expected to help FIfa’s European president Gianni Infantino build bridges with Africa and other confederations.
Samoura’s appointment isn’t without criticism, mainly due to her lack of direct experience in football, however, Gianni Infantino passionately remarks that Samoura hasn’t been appointed to make him look good. She is not a gimmick or a puppet, and personally, I think it’s a step in the right direction, with an injection of fresh perspective into Fifa. Let’s watch this space.
What changes do you expect?