ZURICH/OSLO: President Gianni Infantino has continued with his rebuilding of the FIFA administration by appointing Norway’s Kjetil Siem as his right-hand man in charge of strategic affairs writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The appointment of Siem, who has resigned as general secretary of the Norwegian federation, follows Infantino’s announcement last Friday that Fatma Soumara, a United Nations co-ordinator, would become secretary-general.
Siem’s switch from Oslo to Zurich, where he has already begun work, was confirmed by the Norwegian federation and then by the 55-year-old himself in a television interview.
He said: “I am very proud and humble. This is a tremendous vote of confidence and a huge task ahead. I’m working on ways to analyse how we can streamline the FIFA organisation. Working so closely with the president will be very exciting.
“Infantino contacted me after FIFA Congress in Mexico last week, invited me to FIFA headquarters and after meetings for five to six hours I was presented to the rest of the staff. It has been an exciting journey.”
Siem, a former journalist who spent three years as ceo of South Africa’s Premier Soccer League, added: “Norway has been active in influencing the reforms and changes in FIFA. Now we are facing a gigantic task with many positive signs. It is very exciting but will mean a lot of hard work.”
The complication of the challenge ahead has been exacerbated by the public relations disaster to which Infantino committed FIFA in Mexico City. The former UEFA general secretary smuggled through congress a regulation change which not only wiped away the independence of the judicial committees but whatever credibility the world body had regained after the scandal-scarred regime under Sepp Blatter.
Siem has often been a subject of controversy himself during his four years as NFF general secretary, not least because of a £2m wages explosion in the organisation over the past two years with a sharp increase in executive salaries and travel expenditure.
But he said: “I’ve had a wonderful four years in the NFF which I leave with a secure long-term economy. Sometimes the wind has been with me, sometimes against. It’s been stressful but that’s football.”
Infantino, in a statement of his own, said: “I am very happy to have Kjetil Siem aboard FIFA. He has international experience and has shown the kind of qualities I need around me in efforts to reform FIFA.”
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