Senegal’s Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura has been appointed as FIFA’s first female secretary general, and for an organization 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 incoming FIFA president, Samoura arguably becomes the most important figure in the world of football. Effectively the chief executive of the governing body, she will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the organization as it attempts to recover from the corruption crisis that has threatened its very existence.
Who is Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura?
Samoura, 54, is married with three children and has spent 21 years working for the United Nations (UN). She is regarded as the most senior UN official in Nigeria until she takes on the position at FIFA this July.
Her role at the UN (among many other things) consists of providing support and guidance to seven UN agencies and over 40 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in eastern Chad.
She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, as well as improve performance is big organisations. More 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 overall. 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 changes I expect to see with a new female general secretary in FIFA are:
A clamp down corruption – Samoura’s integrity and leadership skills should hopefully help the organization 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.
More support for women’s professional football – Currently women 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 unaddressed. She vowed herself to bring greater support to women’s football.
Build better bridges 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.
Image: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Louisa Kiwana is the founder of Afroblush, a Pan-African Lifestyle Blog that was created as a way of sharing experiences, conversations and inspiration from the African diaspora. She is also a brand and consumer insight consultant with invested interest in lifestyle and consumer brands breaking into or expanding across the African market. Follow her on twitter.