FIFA’s choice of Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima as its first global fan ambassador five months before the Women’s World Cup was described Tuesday as “tone deaf” by the former leader of the soccer body’s task force for the women’s game.
Lima’s appointment to “develop, promote and participate in several global initiatives” was announced by FIFA on Monday hours before the former Victoria’s Secret runway model helped present the fan prize in Paris at its annual award ceremony.
“Seriously, FIFA, is this the fan engagement ambassador we need as the [Women’s World Cup] approaches?” wrote Moya Dodd, who was part of the co-hosting bid campaign for her native Australia and New Zealand, on her Twitter account.
Dodd, a former FIFA executive committee member and longtime advocate for women’s soccer, used the hashtag “tonedeaf” and posted the glamor photo from the profile of Lima’s Twitter account that has 2.4 million followers.
A former Australia national-team player, Dodd also recalled recent speculation FIFA could sign the Saudi Arabia tourism board as an official sponsor of the month-long tournament that starts 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 Monday in Paris at the FIFA gala event with its president Gianni Infantino and posted on Twitter her new role “means the world to me.”
She also posted to her 15.4 million followers on Instagram: “It is a great honor to be part of the FIFA Family.”
“As a fan myself, I hope to connect at a greater level this family to the life of this beautiful sport: the fans!” she wrote.
FIFA did not specify details Monday of the projects involving Lima, nor if it would involve the biggest-ever marquee women’s tournament which now has 32 teams.
“When you get to meet Adriana, you feel right away her warmth, kindness, and how approachable and passionate she is about our game,” Infantino said Monday in the FIFA statement. “She lives and breathes ‘futebol’ and that is also why she can be an excellent link between FIFA and fans worldwide.”
FIFA noted Lima is a “supermodel, actress and businesswoman” but offered no details about her links to the sport besides being a fan. Lima posted her condolences after Pele’s death in December.
Infantino and Dodd served together on FIFA’s ruling committee for more than a year after he was elected in 2016.
She was the first woman, in 2013, to represent the Asian soccer confederation at FIFA and gained a reputation as an independent voice during the presidency of Sepp Blatter. Dodd lost her re-election bid four years later to an opponent from Bangladesh.
Her latest criticism of FIFA follows an op-ed article she wrote for an Australian newspaper four weeks ago. She 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 also wrote then she was “thrilled by the progress women’s football has made there [in Saudi Arabia] in recent times.”
The pending “Visit Saudi” sponsor deal also provoked the soccer federations of Australia and New Zealand to urge FIFA not to sign the agreement.