The newly-appointed General Secretary of FIFA Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura officially started work this week as the first female and non-European to take on one of the most influential jobs in World football.
The 54-year-old Senegalese national worked as a humanitarian Co-ordinator at the United Nations for more than two decades and in an interview organised by FIFA, she said her top priority was appointing s the chief financial officer and chief compliance officer after her two predecessors, Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner were both sacked, the latter under somewhat questionable circumstances.
With the corruption scandal that has enveloped FIFA still very much alive, with a string of powerful names brought down, Samoura says boosting morale will be crucial.
“My second priority is to try as much as possible to focus on the staff, who have been going through extreme stress over the last 12 months because of the corruption scandals,” she said.
“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,” she added.
Samoura comes from a very different background to that of most senior FIFA figures but believes that will weigh in her favour rather than the reverse.
“FIFA is the UN of football. It is 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. Altogether, I think that I am not doing a different job. Yes, I am in a different field, but if you look at it from a development perspective, you can see many similarities between football and the work that I was doing in the UN – which was to put the individuals at the centre of the decisions of the organisation. This is pretty much the same experience of putting football into the centre of the decisions of FIFA.”
Samoura is anxious that her efforts to improve the image of FIFA are not overshadowed by the ongoing and nagging corruption crisis.
“I am trying as much as possible to ensure that…not everybody is focusing only 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.”