MEXICO CITY (AP) – FIFA broke new ground by appointing a Senegalese United Nations official as its first female and first non-European secretary general on Friday.
Fatma Samoura has no experience working in sports but FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes that will help it try to regain the trust and credibility of the world after far-reaching corruption, bribery, and financial misconduct.
"We want to embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality," Infantino told his first FIFA Congress as president since succeeding the banned Sepp Blatter.
Moya Dodd, a member of the ruling FIFA Council, called it a "landmark day for women in FIFA."
The 54-year-old Samoura, who will replace the fired Jerome Valcke if she passes an eligibility check, is currently working in development for the U.N. in Nigeria.
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 organizations, 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 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.
But 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.
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 organization."
Also, FIFA lifted Indonesia's suspension from world soccer. 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 soccer 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.