Former president Mauricio Macri has a new job: he's been appointed the new chief of the FIFA Foundation, an offshoot of football's governing body set up in 2018 to "promote positive social change" and improve infrastructure at a grassroots level.
Macri's ties to the footballing community are well-known – the Cambiemos leader formerly served as the president of local giants Boca Juniors for decades, using it as a springboard to launch himself into national politics, first as Buenos Aires City mayor and later as president of the nation.
The former head of state, who led the nation from 2015 to 2019, has kept a low profile in recent months since leaving office and this is the first major news to emerge from his camp since he handed over the presidency to Peronist leader Alberto Fernández on December 10 last year. He is currently on vacation in Patagonia.
According to FIFA, the foundation – which was set up in March 2018 – was created as "an independent entity" that seeks to "help promote positive social change around the world and raise support for the recovery and reconstruction of damaged or destroyed sports infrastructure."
The foundation, whose CEO is former French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff, is currently engaged in a number of projects, including a programme which pushes women's football in the Middle East. It has also hosted international forums in recent years with football administrators and has a flagship 'Football for Schools' programme which has been allocated a budget of US$100 million.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed the news in a press release, confirming Macri's position as the foundation's executive director.
“It is a great pleasure and an honour to announce that Mauricio Macri will assume this position at the head of the FIFA Foundation. Mauricio has the ideal profile to lead this project, which wants to put football at the service of society," he said.
"Through his experience as a leader of a great nation he knows the central role that education has for the future of our societies and, as the leader of one of the most successful football clubs, he knows the unique strength and passion that our sport. His experience and vision of the future will undoubtedly allow our foundation to intensify its work and expand its scope to contribute to social improvements throughout the world.”
Macri, who has forged closer ties with FIFA in recent years as he lead a regional bid to host the 2030 World Cup in Latin America – also described his appointment as "an honour."
“It is an honour and a great satisfaction to have been appointed executive president of the FIFA Foundation. I thank President Infantino for this show of confidence and for giving me the opportunity to combine my three passions: education, football and working for young people, so they can have a better future.”
"Football has the advantage of reaching millions of young people and teaching them values and tools that will serve them for a lifetime and for their jobs in the future, such as teamwork, effort and respect for the other," Macri said. "In addition, through football, more complex issues can be addressed, such as violence, drug use or obesity."
FIFA said it has a goal of raising US$1 billion from investors for educational programmes.
In recent years, FIFA has been blighted by a host of corruption scandals that have severely damaged its credibility. Allegations had blighted the organisation and Infantino's predecessor, Sepp Blatter, for years. However, they came to a head over the past decade, with scandals surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and bribery and television broadcast rights.
While in office, Macri invited Infantino to speak at the G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires in December 2018. On a visit to FIFA headquarters last June, Macri was the first person to receive FIFA's “Living Football Award,” handed out by Infantino.