FIFA on Friday named Senegalese UN diplomat Fatma Samoura as the first female secretary general in the history of the male-dominated world football organization.
Samoura, 54, comes from outside the football world, having worked with the United Nations for 21 years. She is currently based in Nigeria for the UN Development Program.
“Today is a wonderful day for me, and I am honored 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.”
She will take her post by mid-June after undergoing an eligibility check administered by an independent review committee.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who announced her appointment by the FIFA Council during a congress in Mexco City, said Samoura was a “great person” with experience managing big organizations, budgets and staff.
“We have to be serious when we say we embrace diversity and we believe in gender equality,” Infantino said.
“She will bring a fresh wind to FIFA, somebody from outside, not somebody from inside, not somebody from the past but somebody new.”
Her appointment was a huge surprise at a congress that was meant to focus on confirming reforms aimed at cleaning up an organization ensnared in a massive corruption scandal.
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.