- FATMA SAMOURA IS THE VERY FIRST FEMALE SECRETARY GENERAL OF FIFA EVER. SHE IS FROM AFRICA.
Fatma Samoura is a senior United Nations official who took office in 1995. She had worked in different posts responding to several emergencies in different parts of Africa and other parts of the world. When she was appointed in February 2016 as the Secretary General of FIFA, she became the first woman to ever walk in FIFA’s leadership.
- -It is an honor to be talking to you and getting to know you, Madame Secretary General. Do you want to say hello to our readers and introduce yourself.
Greetings to all Eritreans. My name is Fatma Samoura. I am from Senegal, Africa, and I am the FIFA Secretary General.
- -Tell us a bit about your country. What is it like to grow up in Senegal?
Senegal is just great. Home is always home. The country is doing great in football. Especially the men football team. People love football over there. The national men football team was actually one of the five African teams that qualified for the world Cup in Russia. Therefore, the whole country and its population are always in great zeal supporting the Eranga Lions at all times. It is a great atmosphere as you enjoy the sense of being together brought by football.
- -You are the very first female to hold the post of Secretary General in FIFA. And, sadly, many would agree that a post like this one, with inevitable high competitions, would normally be almost impossible for an African to be selected for, and a woman at that. We are proud of you, of course. It is pleasing that an African woman is actually the Secretary General of FIFA. How was the climb to FIFA leadership?
The president of FIFA, Mr. Infantino, had very clear vision for his presidency. His mandate since day one of his term, in February 2016, has been to make football a gender- sensitive sport as well as a sport that promotes diversity as a source of friendship and vigor. His decision was to reflect his plans through several actions without taking much time, one of which was appointing the very first female African Secretary General in the history of FIFA to lead the administration of the world football governing body.
- -So how did you feel about the news of your election?
Very excited. There is a lot of expectation from my side of the world. With me being appointed as the Secretary General, the hope of many Africans now is for FIFA to focus on the development of football in the continent.
- -Now, take us back to Senegal. What is the story of football in your home country?
In Senegal, football is growing slowly. But it’s registering encouraging outcomes now. It is also one of the few countries where the female team got good standards and recognition.
- -As a female leader, what do you have to say to other women who aspire to be changing agents of their community?
I sympathize with women’s struggle to come out and show the world that they, too, can contribute in making a difference. My piece of mind to those who are striving for greatness is to believe in themselves and look ahead no matter what obstacles they might face. There is nothing impossible in the world. Everything and anything can be attained so long as there is the will and readiness to fight until the end. I know women can do wonders so long as they are set to overcome social, cultural and religious impediments.
- -Do you think that prejudices have ever been used against women in the governance of FIFA? Have women, by any means, ever been neglected in any structural forms of FIFA?
What I can say for sure is that the football industry has not been really a diverse industry in terms of gender and nationalities. But my example is not the only example of a better phase for FIFA. We have been promoting diversity amongst the committees. Before my time, there were less than five percent of women representatives in the committee. Now, they are close to twenty percent. The same progress is being registered at recruitment level. In FIFA, we currently have forty-five women occupying executive and senior executive posts. Definitely, the ambition is to have up to fifty percent of women represented at the highest football hierarchy by 2026. And furthermore it is exciting as the vision is not to be applied only in FIFA but also in our two hundred eleven member associations and six confederations.
- -That is beautiful. And good news for women who aspire to climb up the ladder of FIFA’s hierarchy.
It is, indeed, and strategically very important because the plan is to make FIFA a cohesive and well-rounded organization.
- -Did you like your stay in Eritrea?
I did, of course. It is so nice to be here. I enjoy my trip every time I come. I am actually revisiting. I was WFP representative in Djibouti from 2000 until 2005 and back then I was lucky to come to Eritrea and visit the staff here in the National Association of Eritrean Football to train them on humanitarian assistance. I have real beautiful memories that I made here in Eritrea. Actually, last night, when we first landed here in Asmara, the very first thought that came to my head was to go to the center of the city as soon as possible and get a taste of the exquisite cappuccino typical of Asmara.
- -Thank you so much for the interview, Madame Secretary General. Is there anything you want to say at the end?
I’d like to thank the people of Eritrea for their hospitality. I wish for the Eritrean people to keep and nurture further their beautiful culture and history of sports. I want to encourage all of the young boys and, especially, girls to believe in themselves and the power of football.