Head of European soccer opposes FIFA Africa role for Samoura

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino is facing opposition from one of his deputies over a plan to appoint secretary general Fatma Samoura to an additional role cleaning up African soccer.

Aleksander Ceferin, the head of European soccer, was among the FIFA vice presidents asked by Infantino on Thursday to hastily approve Samoura’s appointment as FIFA General Delegate for Africa for an initial six months from August.

Samoura would be leading an urgent audit of the Confederation of African Football on finances. It comes with CAF President Ahmad, who goes by one name, embroiled in allegations of financial impropriety.

Infantino provided details of Samoura’s proposed role in a letter to the Bureau of the FIFA Council, which features the regional confederation leaders who serve as vice presidents of the global governing body.

While Samoura would retain her position of secretary general, Infantino told members of the FIFA Bureau that she “will delegate her functions within the FIFA administration in accordance with the relevant internal regulations.”

Samoura’s role could be extended beyond the six months with the approval of FIFA and CAF. Ceferin said Infantino's proposal was received at 1:50 a.m. Thursday and a response was sought by 10:30 a.m.

“I cannot be expected to have your proposal examined by UEFA's legal team or consult the European members of the FIFA Council on a subject of such great importance in a mere 90 minutes,” Ceferin wrote to Infantino in a letter seen by The Associated Press.

“Never in the history of our institutions has the FIFA Secretary General, who under the FIFA Statutes leads the organization, been placed on secondment to take control of a confederation, even with the latter's consent.”

Ceferin said Samoura becoming FIFA General Delegate for Africa while retaining the title of secretary general “raises a large number of questions and in particular the likelihood of conflicts of interest” as well doubts over whether it complies with the statutes of FIFA and the CAF.

“You must understand that this is not the type of decision to be taken lightly and in haste,” Ceferin wrote. “Without our legal analysis of the situation and consultation of the European members of the FIFA Council, I am not at liberty to approve the proposal you put forward.”

Samoura, a Senegalese former United Nations official, became FIFA’s first female secretary general in 2016 after Infantino’s election.

Ceferin has asked Infantino for an “accurate description of the role and powers of the FIFA General Delegate for Africa, an accurate description of the way FIFA would function in her absence.”

“At this stage, I am not in possession of enough information or assurances on this subject to be able to approve the proposal,” Ceferin wrote to Infantino.

“For these various reasons, I am sure you will fully understand that, in the current state of affairs and without additional information from you, I cannot approve the proposal set out in your letter sent to the FIFA Bureau of the Council members to appoint a FIFA General Delegate for Africa.”

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