'Tone deaf': Fifa criticised for appointing supermodel Adriana Lima as global fan ambassador

Brazilian model Adriana Lima poses on the green carpet before the ceremony of the Best Fifa Football Awards in Paris. Credit: AP

Fifa's appointment of supermodel Adriana Lima as the organisation's first global fan ambassador has been labelled "tone deaf" by a former Fifa executive committee member.

On Monday the Brazilian former Victoria's Secret model was appointed to “develop, promote and participate in several global initiatives” before she 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 football, used the hashtag “tonedeaf” in her post.

In a LinkedIn post, former Australia national-team player Dodd later stated "the model's public image" is an "odd fit for an organisation that says it wants to empower girls and women", referring to a screenshot of Lima's Twitter profile while includes a glamour shot of the model.

Dodd also drew attention to Lima's liquid-only diet for nine days before a Victoria's Secret show, and comments from the model in 2006 when she expressed her belief that abortion is a "crime".

Dodd wrote: "What will this ambassador represent to the large and growing population of aspirational women's football players and fans who love the game because it shows us what empowerment and equality can look like? "Because when a girl plays football, the world sees her differently. Instead of being complimented on her nice looks or her pretty dress, she is valued for her game-saving tackles and brilliant goal-scoring.

"She's admired for what she can do, rather than how she looks, putting her on a more equal footing with her brothers in a way that can alter the whole trajectory of her life's ambitions."

Women Sport Australia President Gen Dohrmann told The Guardian a world-renowned footballer would have been a better fit for the role.

“You would see Cristiano Ronaldo as the poster boy of the men’s World Cup, so why do we need a supermodel when we could choose Meg Rapinoe, or Sam Kerr, or someone who has international accolades in the sport we are actually promoting? “That is the type of role model that should be at the front of this campaign.”

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.”

Lima 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 on Monday of the projects involving Lima, nor if it would involve the biggest-ever marquee women’s tournament which now has 32 teams.

In a statement on Monday, Fifa President Gianni Infantino said: "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.”

In the same statement, Lima said she is a football fan and added: "I am very thankful and honoured to have been chosen by FIFA to be the first global fan ambassador and to be given such a platform to help fans get even closer to the game."

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 football 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. 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 football federations of Australia and New Zealand to urge Fifa not to sign the agreement.

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