African woman becomes second most-powerful official at FIFA

FIFA appointed Senegal’s Fatma Samoura as second-in-command to new president Gianni Infantino, as soccer’s governing body — battered by negative publicity since last year’s arrests of senior leaders on corruption charges — tries to improve its image.

Samoura, who is a humanitarian coordinator based in Nigeria for the United Nations, replaces Jerome Valcke, the Frenchman who was fired by FIFA after allegations of wrongdoing. The 54-year-old is the first woman and the first African to hold the post.

The secretary general position is a vital for FIFA. Valcke was in charge of sport’s most-watched tournament, the quadrennial World Cup, which generates more than $5 billion, almost all of the soccer body’s revenue.

“Fatma is a woman with international experience and vision who has worked on some of the most challenging issues of our time,” Infantino said at FIFA’s annual Congress in Mexico City. “She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organizations perform. Importantly for FIFA, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organization.”

Samoura still requires to undergo an eligibility check, FIFA said. Infantino, who was general secretary of European soccer’s UEFA, said recently it could take months before his No. 2 was appointed.

“This role is a perfect fit for my skills and experience -– strategic, high impact team building in international settings,” Samoura said. “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.”

Although Samoura’s new salary wasn’t disclosed, she’s likely to be one of the organization’s best paid employees. FIFA’s compensation committee has compared the administrator’s post to that of a company’s chief executive officer.

– Bloomberg