World football governing body FIFA’s decision to appoint Senegalese intellectual Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, as its Secretary-General (SG) has been received with sense of justice and tears of joy, notably amongst previously marginalised female folk.
Samoura succeeds disgraced former SG Jerome Valcke, who was banned from football-related activities for 12 years. The newly appointed 54-year old spent 21 years working for the United Nations and is scheduled to take office next month.
Samoura’s appointment was met with excitement by leading Namibian activists who have been vigorously advocating for the inclusion of women in decision-making bodies and organisations.
“I’m actually not surprised at all by her appointment, because FIFA always wanted to holistically develop women in global football to succeed. There were deliberate efforts by FIFA to integrate and create an equal platform by closing the gap in women’s involvement in the game of football,” says Jacqui Shipanga.
Shipanga applauded the new elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino, adding that this decision is proof the world football governing body is on the right track. “Women have benefited immensely if one considers that we now have the biannual FIFA world cups in all age groups. She believes Samoura’s appointment is a wake-up call and could erase the misplaced notion that football should be administered by people who have been in the game. “Just take a closer look at the current quagmire in which our MTC Premiership finds itself entangled. People are complaining bitterly about poor attendance at league matches, including the continued reluctance of corporate business to associate themselves with the game. By the way, how can we improve the game in the absence of qualified personalities to market the product,” Shipanga fumes.
Local women’s rights activist Advocate Bience Gawanas also joined the fray, saying: “I actually don’t know her background, but to be quite honest it is wonderful not only for Africa, but women in general. As a former commissioner in charge of sport, I’m indeed very proud of her appointment and hope she will deliver on her mandate.”
Gawanas adds that Samoura’s appointment comes at a time when FIFA is faced with a great challenge to restore its tainted image and sincerely hope she gets the necessary support to execute her duties.
On his part, Infantino said it is essential for Fifa to incorporate fresh perspectives as it continues to restore and rebuild the organization’s tainted image. “She has a proven ability to build and lead teams while improving the way organisations perform. Importantly for Fifa, Samoura also understands transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation.”
Samoura’s appointment, announced at the Fifa congress in Mexico City last weekend, completesthe revamp of the institution, which has been dogged by corruption allegations under Valcke and disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
Blatter, who led Fifa since 1998, stood down last year and was later suspended from football for six years for breaching ethics guidelines.
On his appointment in February, Infantino said he would “work tirelessly to bring football back to Fifa and Fifa back to football”.
Samoura ‘honoured’ to take up new role
Samoura, who will undergo an eligibility check before her role is confirmed, currently works for the UN in Nigeria. She speaks four languages.
She started her UN career as a senior logistics officer with the World Food Programme in Rome in 1995 and has since served as country representative or director in six African countries, including Nigeria.
“Today is a wonderful day for me and I’m honoured to take on this role. This role is a perfect fit for my skills and experience – strategic, high-impact team building in international settings – which I will use to help grow the game of football all over the world,” she said.
Samoura said she looks forward to bringing her experience in governance and compliance to bear on the important reform work already underway at Fifa. “Fifa is taking a fresh approach to its work and I am eager to play a role in making that approach as effective and lasting as possible.” – Additional reporting: BBC Sport