Mexico City: FIFA named a Senegalese UN diplomat as its first ever female secretary general today, a surprise and historic move announced at a congress to overhaul the scandal-plagued organisation.
Fatma 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.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who announced her appointment during the annual congress in Mexico City, said his future number two 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."
Samoura will take her post by mid-June after undergoing an eligibility check administered by an independent review committee.
"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."
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.
FIFA officials gathered in the Mexican capital to formally implement changes that were adopted at an extraordinary congress in February to overcome a deep corruption crisis.
"Today we pass from the words to the actions, from the proclamations to the facts," said Infantino, who was elected in February after his predecessor Sepp Blatter was brought down by the scandal.
"You will see us reborn" through this congress, he added. In another step towards restoring trust, the North and Central American and Caribbean football confederation (CONCACAF), which has been in the eye of the corruption storm, elected a new president on Thursday.
Canadian football chief Victor Montagliani became CONCACAF's fourth president in five years after his three predecessors were ensnared in corruption allegations, with the last one arrested in December.
FIFA's new council, meanwhile, resumed on Tuesday the process to select the host of the 2026 World Cup, which had been frozen since last year over claims of misdeeds in awarding the tournaments to Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022.
"After all the issues, or criticisms, or whatever, which happened around the last World Cup bidding process, it is absolutely crucial for FIFA's credibility that we have a bullet-poof bidding process in place for 2026," Infantino said.
He noted that human rights requirements will be examined during the process for the first time and that bidders that fail technical requirements will be excluded. But the scandals keep haunting world football. On Monday, Infantino's former boss, Michel Platini, said he will step down as head of European football body UEFA after failing to overturn his ban from all football-related activity over allegations that he received a dubious two million Swiss franc (USD 2 million, 1.8 million euros) payment from FIFA.
Earlier this month, FIFA banned two top executive members from Chile and Colombia for life over bribes. World football's governing body must now ratify reforms that were approved by the special congress, which renamed the disgraced executive committee as the FIFA Council and pruned its powers.
The reforms came into force on April 27, 60 days after the vote.
The governance reforms include term limits, transparency in salaries and more powers for the secretary general. In other decisions, the congress faces prickly votes over the admission of Gibraltar and the former Serbian province of Kosovo, taking the world body to 211 members.
The FIFA Council recommended on Tuesday that both be admitted, which would entitle them to participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
FIFA's executive originally rejected Gibraltar's bid, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered that the congress take a vote on the British territory, which is also claimed by Spain.