FIFA named a Senegalese UN diplomat as its first ever female secretary general on Friday, a historic move announced at a congress that sought to relegate world football’s corruption crisis to the past.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino made the surprise announcement in Mexico City that he had chosen 54-year-old Fatma Samoura, an outsider unknown to the football world, to be his deputy at the male-dominated organization.
“The congress of today demonstrates without any shadow of a doubt that FIFA is back on track,” said Infantino, who was elected in February after his predecessor Sepp Blatter was brought down by the scandal.
“I can officially inform you here that the crisis is over and we are all looking forward to a great future,” he said after vowing that FIFA would be “reborn”.
Samoura, who has worked on humanitarian crises with the United Nations for 21 years, is currently based in Nigeria for the UN Development Program.
“We have to be serious when we say we embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality,” Infantino said, describing Samoura as the “most competent” person for the job, with experience in managing big organizations.
“She will bring a fresh wind to FIFA, somebody from outside, not somebody from inside, not somebody from the past but somebody new.”
Samoura will take her post by mid-June after undergoing an eligibility check administered by an independent review committee.
“Today is a wonderful day for me, and I am honoured to take on the role of FIFA’s secretary general,” Samoura, who has also worked at the World Food Program, said in a statement.
“I also look forward to bringing my experience in governance and compliance to bear on the important reform work that is already underway at FIFA.”
The former secretary general, Jerome Valcke of France, was sacked in January and banned from football for 12 years over misconduct in television deals and World Cup ticket sales — one of the many scandals that hit FIFA.
Germany’s Markus Kattner had been serving as interim secretary general since then.