Meet Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s First Female Secretary General

Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura was appointed as FIFA’s first female secretary general. The 51-year-old Nigerian-based Senegalese United Nations diplomat succeeded former secretary general Jerome Valcke, who has been banned from football-related activity for 12 years.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, who announced Samora’s appointment at FIFA’s congress in Mexico City on Friday, said Samoura will resume work at football’s governing body in June. He expressed confidence in her human resources ability which he believes will bring a fresh wind to the football governing body.

Fatma Samoura said in a statement released by FIFA;

“I believe this role is a perfect fit for my skills and experience — strategic, high-impact team building in international settings — which I will use to help grow the game of football all over the world. 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 also added;

“FIFA is taking a fresh approach to its work – and I am eager to play a role in making that approach as effective and lasting as possible.”

Considering that FIFA did not appoint a woman to its ruling executive committee until 2013, Samoura is certainly a woman to watch out for. She was required to undergo an eligibility check which was administered by the independent Review Committee, per Article 37 of the FIFA Statutes. President Infantino was full of high praise for her, praising her integrity and stating that the council was impressed by her operational experience along with her expertise in governance and working in multi-cultural environments. He had the expectation that her expertise would “complement the long-standing and deep knowledge of world football within the FIFA leadership team and administration.”

President Infantino with the appointment of Fatma Samoura is fighting the image of FIFA as a men’s club. During his campaign for the presidency of FIFA, he had said that part of his priorities was the development of women’s soccer. The reforms in FIFA also mandated the inclusion of women in leadership at many levels of the game. All these certainly worked towards the appointment of Fatma Samoura as FIFA’s first female secretary general along with her impressive career journey and record of integrity and service.

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FIFA President Announcing Fatma Samoura’s Appointment

Samoura started her UN career as a senior logistics officer with the World Food Programme in Rome in 1995 and has since served as the country representative or director in six African countries, including Nigeria.

She speaks four languages (French, English, Spanish and Italian), and has no previous experience in sports but will have to undergo an eligibility check before her role is finally ratified.

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Fatma Samoura Career Journey

FIFA’s new secretary general earned herself a Masters Degree in English and Spanish at the University of Lyon; and a Post-Masters Degree in international relations/international trade from the Institut d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées (IECS)- Strasbourg-France. She initially spent eight years in the private sector, working in the fertilizer trading sector for Senchim, a subsidiary of Industries Chimiques du Senegal. In that role, she supervised product export and import programmes, tenders, and the establishment of a national distribution network.

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Fatma Samoura joined the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in 1995. She began work as the Country Director for WFP in Djibouti and Cameroon. Whilst occupying that position, she also worked at the WFP headquarters in Rome. Her roles saw her covering numerous complex emergencies, including Kosovo, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, and Timor-Leste (East Timor).

It was in 2007 that the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in consultation with the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, appointed her as Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator (DHC) for eastern Chad. She was tasked with working for the return of over 280,000 refugees and over 170,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the eastern region of Chad. She was based in the town of Abéché, located approximately 80 kilometres west of the border with Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region. Her functions at the time included the provision of support and some guidance to one team that was comprised of seven United Nations agencies and over 40 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in eastern Chad.


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