(WFI) Fatma Samoura says the appointment of chief financial and compliance officials and improving FIFA’s governance structure are top priorities.
FIFA’s new general secretary officially started work this week after she was named to the job at the federation’s congress in May by president Gianni Infantino. The 54-year-old from Senegal is the first woman and non-European to hold the post.
Tasked with reviving the fortunes of the scandal-battered world football body, Samoura has much to prove to those who have questioned Infantino appointing his No.2 from outside football.
Asked about her main priorities in her first weeks in the job, she spoke about the need to have the senior executive staff – “good leaders” – appointed as soon as possible, including the chief financial officer and the chief compliance officer.
She referenced the downfall of the disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, her predecessor Jerome Valcke, financial chief Markus Kattner and a slew of scandals now being investigated separately by U.S. and Swiss authorities.
Samoura said her second focus was on FIFA staff, “who have been going through extreme stress over the last 12 months because of the corruption scandals that have had a negative impact on the morale. So I am here to boost the morale of the staff.
“And my third priority is to ensure that the new directives that govern FIFA, which have been recently approved at the congress, are internalised and rightly disseminated, so that the staff really starts getting used to them,” she added.
“Finally, I want to inject diversity, more equity, a better governance structure, a stronger monitoring and evaluation system and an obligation to inform and report on the good deeds of FIFA.
Asked how she planned to lead the FIFA administration following years of scandal under Blatter’s watch, she said: “The audit forensics is ongoing, and hopefully the result of the financial audit will also be available very soon, so the legal proceedings will continue.
“While I know that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, I do not want these ongoing processes to be detrimental to the real goals and ambitions of the organisation.”
She hopes people won’t only focus “on the legal aspect of the corruption matters, but that we all focus on FIFA’s day-to-day operations. It is my role to make sure that the errors of the past are not repeated by the new executive team, and for that we need to take lessons from the mistakes of the past and internalise the good practices.”
Samoura can draw on two decades of experience working at the United Nations. But what can she bring to FIFA?
She said football was “a unifier”.
“My creative challenge when taking up this position is: how we can link the work that I was doing with the UN – to restore peace and bring cohesion between fighting parties – and football, because football is really a sport that can overcome those social, linguistic and religious barriers,” she said, remarking on similarities between the UN and FIFA from a development perspective.
As the first woman in the FIFA job, Samoura’s message was clear: “My touche – as we say it in French – as a woman is to ensure that there is more equity not only in the way we recruit people – which means having more females in the executive level of FIFA – but also in how a game that embraces all communities may have a special focus on women.
“Women are 50 per cent of humanity, and no institution can fully reach its goal if it decides to sideline 50 per cent of the population.”
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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