Monday 02 October 2023, 20:00

FIFA Secretary General honoured with Best of Africa Legacy award

  • Fatma Samoura receives honour at prestigious ceremony in London, UK

  • Women’s football was transformed under her tenure

  • Legacy Award recognition of achievements during seven years’ work in role

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has been honoured for trailblazing work she has carried out in her role at FIFA by the Best of Africa Awards in London, UK. Ms. Samoura, who also received the World Football Summit (WFS) Lifetime Achievement Award last month, will step down at the end of the year, closing a historic chapter for FIFA during which she helped restore its reputation.

Born in Senegal, she became the first African, first Muslim and first woman to hold the Secretary General role in FIFA history when she was appointed in May 2016. “When we receive this kind of award, it means that the world has recognised somehow our (efforts) to bring back the reputation of FIFA, to become a more ‘human’ and more diversified and a more open organisation,” she said. Fatma Samoura's tenure was transformational for women's football. The FIFA Women's World Cup™ now has 32 teams and the 2023 edition in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand attracted nearly 2 million fans in the stadiums and 2 billion viewers worldwide. Prize money has also increased around tenfold since 2015.

At the same time, standards of play have risen dramatically, players are physically better prepared, matches are more intense and more teams are capable of playing at the highest level. The top players are now receiving the recognition they deserve and have become household names, like their male counterparts. At the moment, over 180 of the 211 member associations have active national women’s teams compared to 136 in 2016 and FIFA is working to bring that figure up to 211. A Futsal Women’s World Cup will come into being and youth tournaments will be more regular. The FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup will be annual so a constant pool of talent will be coming through to senior levels. The growth of women’s football has also played a role in the empowerment of women and young people, especially in Africa.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the men's FIFA World Cup, from 32 to 48 teams, means that more African teams will be represented in 2026. “Today, we are proud also to take stock of all the promotion work that was done by the new leadership of FIFA, including myself, to give Africa the possibility to have nine direct slots for the [FIFA] World Cup in 2026 and ten teams if we go through the international play-offs,” said Ms Samoura. “It means that in seven years, we have multiplied by two the number of African teams going to the [FIFA] World Cup. from five, now to ten. “So, Africa, all the Super Eagles and the Black Stars, and all the Lions from the Atlas to the Teranga to Indomitable Lions, you have [a] 25% chance, one out of four, to become the next World Cup winner. Please don’t disappoint me.”

Secretary General