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Unveiling the Shadows: FIFA Secretary General Discusses How Rubiales' Unwanted Kiss Cast a Cloud Over Spain's Women's World Cup Triumph

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In the aftermath of Spain's Women's World Cup victory, FIFA's outgoing Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, revealed her dismay at Luis Rubiales' unwanted kiss on Jennifer Hermoso, asserting that it marred the joy of the triumph and cast a shadow over the tournament. Speaking at the Best of Africa Awards in London, Samoura expressed gratitude for the global support shown towards Hermoso, emphasizing that Rubiales' actions had detrimental effects on the celebration of the world champions.

Reflecting on the incident, Samoura recounted her immediate realization of the inappropriateness of Rubiales' behavior during the medal ceremony. The fallout from this incident triggered a crisis in Spanish soccer, leading to Rubiales' resignation as the country's soccer president last month. The 46-year-old is currently under investigation for alleged sexual assault and coercion, a case initiated by Spanish prosecutors.

Samoura commended the worldwide response, especially from those who appreciate sports and respect the dignity of women, likening it to the activism seen in global movements against systemic abuse. Drawing parallels to the reaction following George Floyd's death in 2020, Samoura emphasized that gender bias has no place in football and noted the collective rejection of such behavior.

As the first woman and first African Secretary General of FIFA, Samoura highlighted the significance of the public outcry against Rubiales' actions. She described the incident as a one-second gesture that, in her view, marred the recently concluded Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Samoura, who has been involved in organizing both men's and women's World Cups, expressed regret that a single act could overshadow the accomplishments of the tournament.

The unwanted kiss triggered condemnation from various sectors of Spanish society, including politicians and sports stars. Among the consequences was the removal of World Cup-winning manager Jorge Vilda from his role, underlining the profound impact of Rubiales' actions on both the sport and its leadership.

"The aftermath of Spain's Women's World Cup victory was marred by an unfortunate incident, according to FIFA's outgoing Secretary General, Fatma Samoura. Speaking about the Spanish team's triumph, Samoura expressed her disappointment, stating, "The [Spanish] girls, after having won this most coveted trophy in global women’s football, could not enjoy it to the best." She emphasized that the incident involving Luis Rubiales' unwanted kiss on Jennifer Hermoso "really derailed from the joy" of the moment.

In Samoura's view, football has the power to unite the world, and the untimely disruption to the celebration of the Women's World Cup, which she referred to as the "biggest World Cup," was indeed unfortunate. Despite the setback, Samoura conveyed a message of resilience to Hermoso and the entire Spanish team, urging them to continue fighting for their rights and championing women's football. She expressed hope that the global support they received would fuel further victories.

Recently honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Best of Africa Awards, Samoura reflected on the legacy she has created in the sport. When questioned about the prospect of a female president for FIFA, she expressed optimism, stating, "I hope one day, and not before too long, we will also see a woman leading football." However, she acknowledged that the decision ultimately rests with the 211 member associations.

Discussing current FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Samoura acknowledged his competence but noted that criticisms, particularly regarding human rights issues, have been raised by organizations such as Amnesty International and FairSquare. She pointed out concerns about the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar leading up to the 2022 tournament. Despite these challenges, Samoura believes that nothing is impossible for women and cited competent women leading member associations.

As Samoura prepares to leave FIFA at the end of the year, she expressed her desire to spend more time with her family, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy for women in football and a hope for a more inclusive and diverse future for the sport."

Reflecting on her tenure at FIFA, Secretary General Fatma Samoura expressed confidence in the organization's transformation during her leadership. She noted that when she assumed her role, FIFA was grappling with corruption scandals under former presidents Sepp Blatter and Jérôme Valcke. Despite her pivotal role in the organization's evolution, Samoura humbly downplayed individual credit, stating, "I don’t like talking about myself because it’s teamwork."

Samoura emphasized the collective effort required to organize events like the World Cup, involving thousands of people. She acknowledged the challenges of combating discrimination in stadiums and credited teamwork for the positive changes within FIFA. Samoura remarked on the significant shift in perception, highlighting FIFA's transition from being perceived as a "toxic brand" to becoming an organization invited to major economic forums and media platforms to discuss sports.

In her view, the key to success lies in prioritizing football and placing it at the center of all endeavors. Samoura's sentiments echo the idea that the transformation of FIFA from a tarnished reputation to a respected entity is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the entire team and their commitment to the sport.

As Fatma Samoura concludes her impactful tenure at FIFA, her reflections underscore a profound transformation within the organization. Steering FIFA through the aftermath of corruption scandals, she emphasizes the collective effort of a team comprising thousands, echoing a sentiment that success is a result of teamwork. Samoura, with humility, refrains from personal accolades, preferring to spotlight football's central role.

From the shadows of disgrace and a once-toxic brand, FIFA, under Samoura's stewardship, now stands as a respected entity, invited to prominent economic forums and media platforms to discuss sports. The journey signifies not just a professional achievement but a collective triumph in placing football at the heart of FIFA's endeavors. Samoura's departure marks a chapter's end, leaving behind a legacy of teamwork, transformation, and a renewed focus on the beautiful game.

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