FIFA named a Senegalese UN diplomat as its first ever female secretary general on Friday, a surprise and historic move announced at a congress to overhaul the scandal-plagued organisation.
Fatma Samoura, 54, comes from outside the football world, having worked with the United Nations for 21 years. She is currently based in Nigeria for the UN Development Program.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who announced her appointment during the annual congress in Mexico City, said his future number two was “a great person” with experience managing big organizations, budgets and staff.
“We have to be serious when we say we embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality,” Infantino said.
“She will bring a fresh wind to FIFA, somebody from outside, not somebody from inside, not somebody from the past but somebody new.”
Samoura will take her post by mid-June after undergoing an eligibility check administered by an independent review committee.
“Today is a wonderful day for me, and I am honored to take on the role of FIFA’s secretary general,” Samoura, who has also worked at the World Food Program, said in a statement.
“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.”
The former secretary general, Jerome Valcke of France, was sacked in January and banned from football for 12 years over misconduct in television deals and World Cup ticket sales — one of the many scandals that hit FIFA.
Germany’s Markus Kattner had been serving as interim secretary general since then.
FIFA officials gathered in the Mexican capital to formally implement changes that were adopted at an extraordinary congress in February to overcome a deep corruption crisis.
“Today we pass from the words to the actions, from the proclamations to the facts,” said Infantino. “You will see us reborn” through this congress, he added.
In another step towards restoring trust, the North and Central American and Caribbean football confederation (CONCACAF), which has been in the eye of the corruption storm, elected a new president on Thursday.