On Monday, Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura of Senegal assumed office as the secretary general of the world football governing body FIFA. As the first woman and the first African to hold the position, Samoura succeeds former Secretary General Jerome Valcke who is currently serving a 12 year ban from all football-related activity over allegations of corruption.
Samoura has had a distinguished career spanning more than two decades as a diplomat with the United Nations and served in trouble spots in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Darfur, acquiring a broad range of skills and experience in crisis management.
The choice of Samoura came as quite a bit of a surprise to many.
Prior to her appointment, she has never held any football-related positions. The 54-year-old Samoura says, though, that she plays some football herself, and her husband had a brief career as a professional football player in his youth.
Reacting to her appointment, the Confederation of African Football General Secretary Hicham el Armarani welcomed her nomination adding, “The FIFA president and council cannot take such a light decision and we’ re pretty confident that she will do a great job.”
FIFA has been hit by a series of scandals in recent years over allegations of corruption, money laundering, and bribery that have seen the indictment of nine FIFA officials and the mass resignation of members of the board.
It is hoped that Samoura, who has just completed and passed her eligibility test for her new role, will bring her wealth of experience to bear in providing the needed stability and credibility the world’s football governing body desperately needs going forward.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia is less than 24 months away, and already there are calls for boycotts over corruption, Russia’s perennial racism problem, and its poor human rights records.
The potential of a crisis loom large in the distance and the staging of a successful tournament in Russia will lie heavily on the shoulders of Fatma Samoura.