FIFA is copping backlash over its 'tone deaf' decision to appoint supermodel Adriana Lima as its first global fan ambassador just months before the Women’s World Cup. FIFA announced the move on Monday, just hours before the former Victoria’s Secret runway model helped present the fan prize in Paris at its annual award ceremony.
FIFA said Lima's appointment was to “develop, promote and participate in several global initiatives”. But Moya Dodd, the former leader of FIFA's task force for women’s football, lambasted the move.
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“Seriously, FIFA, is this the fan engagement ambassador we need as the (Women’s World Cup) approaches?” Dodd wrote on social media. The Aussie, who was part of the co-hosting bid campaign for her native Australia and New Zealand, used the hashtag “tone deaf” and posted a glamorous photo from Lima's Twitter profile.
Dodd also posted previous comments Lima made about her unhealthy eating habits in the lead up to runway shows, asking: "Will the FIFA ambassador be delivering any messages on body image, well-being and healthy eating, for example?"
Dodd is a former FIFA executive committee member and long-time advocate for women's soccer. The former national team player has also been critical of reports FIFA could sign the Saudi Arabia tourism board as an official sponsor of the month-long World Cup, which starts on July 20.
“Honestly baffled by the marketing strategy. First FIFA wants to send an LGBTQ-friendly audience to ‘Visit Saudi’,” Dodd wrote. “Now it’s targeting who exactly?”
Lima was photographed alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday in Paris at the FIFA gala event. She also posted on social media that her new role “means the world to me.”
“It is a great honour to be part of the FIFA Family," she wrote. “As a fan myself, I hope to connect at a greater level this family to the life of this beautiful sport: the fans!”
FIFA has not revealed specifics about what projects Lima will be involved in, or if she will be part of the Women's Word Cup. Infantino said on Monday: “When you get to meet Adriana, you feel right away her warmth, kindness, and how approachable and passionate she is about our game. She lives and breathes ‘futebol’ and that is also why she can be an excellent link between FIFA and fans worldwide."
FIFA noted that Lima is a “supermodel, actress and businesswoman”. However they offered no details about her links to the sport besides being a fan.
— moya dodd (@moyadodd) February 28, 2023
Come on fifa at least use a photo of her actually at a game or wearing a football shirt..
— ✨H⚡️❤️🔥🏴☠️ (@Aitch_GKR) February 27, 2023
— moya dodd (@moyadodd) February 28, 2023
— Lyn Lewis-Smith (@lynbesydney) February 28, 2023
FIFA under fresh fire ahead of Women's World Cup
In 2013, Dodd became the first woman to represent the Asian soccer confederation at FIFA. She worked with Infantino on FIFA’s ruling committee for more than a year after he was elected in 2016, but she lost her re-election bid in 2017 to an opponent from Bangladesh.
She recently suggested that FIFA asking LGBTQ players and fans to visit Saudi Arabia was “to send them to a jurisdiction where they are regarded as criminals.” Dodd added she was “thrilled by the progress women’s football has made there (in Saudi Arabia) in recent times.”
The pending 'Visit Saudi' deal also saw the football federations of Australia and New Zealand urge FIFA not to sign the agreement, while Socceroos great Craig Foster was highly critical of the plan. He said: "Acceptance of Saudi sponsorship without acknowledgement of the accompanying human rights abuses is typical of FIFA and global sport right now and disgraceful in the extreme.
"It's particularly galling that a nation that is listed on the global gender equality index at 127 out of 153 countries, has a legal system that entrenches gender discrimination against women and that issued a 34-year prison sentence to Salma Al-Shehab simply for tweets and retweets on human rights and political issues in Saudi Arabia now sponsors a women's sport tournament in a country proud of its push for equality across all sport."
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