Samoura at FIFA headquarters earlier this month (FIFA)

(WFI) Russian football’s hooliganism problem will be one of Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura’s top priorities when she takes up the post of FIFA secretary general next week.

FIFA announced on Tuesday that Samoura had passed an eligibility check, which allows the former UN official to start in the role as planned next Monday. The independent review committee was established at the FIFA Congress in May and vets all incoming top officials “to protect the organisation against any potential conflicts of interest in the approval of appointments”.

With the Russian World Cup two years away, one of Samoura’s major challenges is tackling the country’s football fan violence and racism problem, which has reared its ugly head at the Euro 2016 championship in France.

Russia has been threatened with expulsion from the tournament by UEFA, along with England, after violent confrontations between fans at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday. Russian fans were held mostly responsible for the ugly scenes in the stadium after charging England fans. But both sets of supporters had clashed in the streets of the Mediterranean port city and with French police.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said Samoura is likely to head to Russia in July. A FIFA spokeswoman told INSIDER today that no date was yet confirmed.

When Samoura does travel to Russia, she will have meetings with Russian Football Union officials including its president Vitaly Mutko, who is a FIFA ExCo member and sports minister. Former Croatian international Zvonimir Boban, one of her two deputy secretary generals, is set to accompany her. 

Appointed a few weeks ago, Boban’s is tasked with “developing football and organising competitions”, which effectively makes him responsible for delivering the Russia and Qatar World Cups. Boban will be heavily involved in trying to tackle Russia’s hooliganism issue in conjunction with Russian FA officials in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup.

Samoura, the former United Nations official from Senegal, visited FIFA headquarters in Zurich for the first time earlier this month for meetings with Infantino, senior officials and staff.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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