Fifa’s freshly announced choice for its second most powerful seat isn’t a very popular face in the sport
By: Sammie Frimpong
Meet Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura (no relation of El Hadji Diouf or Christopher Samba), the Senegalese woman who got declared on Friday as the new Secretary-General for world football’s governing body, Fifa, at the body’s 66th Congress in Mexico City.
Revealing the decision, Fifa boss Gianni Infantino described Samoura as “a woman with international experience and vision” who “also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation.”
But all that aside, what else is there to be known about the 54-year-old who is only currently the UN’s Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria — and especially with respect to her fresh appointment?
A DECENT OUTSIDER
Per a footballing context, Samoura is a definite outsider. She’s had no prior experience in the sport, but instead of that being a demerit, it actually plays to her advantage. You see, with otherwise eligible candidates — including so-called ‘football people’ — and her immediate predecessor not exactly having themselves wrapped in glory after Fifa’s recent scandals, Samoura’s squeaky clean image may just have made her a safe pick, and it’s unlikely spending the last few years working in Africa’s
fantastically corrupt most populous country has eroded her values.
If there’s any aspect in which Samoura’s working experience with the United Nations bears likeness to the new role she’s about to take up in Zurich, it’s in the proficient use of varied languages in communicating effectively with the many members of the organization who come from all over the globe. In this regard, too, Samoura, 21 years a diplomat with the UN, is well-suited for the Fifa post, being fluent in three other major international languages (English, Spanish and Italian) aside her native French. For what it’s worth, she even has a Masters Degree in English and Spanish earned at the University of Lyon.
MAKING HISTORY, BREAKING BARRIERS
Fifa has never had a non-European Secretary General, with the office occupied by a string of Swiss, including current interim Markus Kattner and a certain Sepp Blatter, as well as some of other Western nationalities. It’s a trend Samoura’s unheralded ascent halts in style. Also, after ten men, Samoura becomes the first woman to be handed the privilege. While there may currently be three women on Fifa’s influential Executive Committee — among them an African — Samoura’s appointment to one of football’s most powerful offices represents a giant step for the fairer sex and for the game’s minorities in general.
HOPE FOR QATAR
Samoura isn’t the reason why the United States of America would have another shot at hosting the controversy- shrouded 2022 Fifa World Cup but, being humanitarian at heart and with her UN background, she could open up more than just a sliver of relief for the oppressed migrant workers on whose lives that particularly infamous Mundial literally — yet very unfairly — hinges.
Samoura may have been appointed yesterday, but she isn’t Fifa’s new general secretary — at least not yet. She still has to be subjected to an eligibility and integrity check, after which, around mid-June, she’d replace Kattner.