MIAMI - CONCACAF congratulated Sonia Bien-Aime on Monday for being voted into the FIFA Executive Committee in a co-opted position. Bien-Aime was welcomed into the highest ranks of soccer's governing body on Friday, May 31 at the 63rd FIFA Congress in Mauritius.
"To watch a member of our confederation rise to a FIFA Executive Committee position is always gratifying," said Jeffery Webb, President of CONCACAF. "However being able to witness history unfolding as someone like Sonia Bien-Aime is recognized by the global football family is unique. We want to congratulate Sonia for her career-long achievements and offer her the full support of the region as she embarks on this new stage in her football career."
Bien-Aime joined the FIFA Executive Committee along with two other women: Burundi Football Association President Lydia Nseker, who is a full FIFA Executive Committee member, and Asian Football Confederation Vice President Moya Dodd, who also has co-opted status.
CONCACAF.com spoke to Bien-Aime for an exclusive interview, where she shares her thoughts about this new challenge and provides insight into her professional career.
Bien-Aime makes history for CONCACAF and FIFA
Sonia Bien-Aime's invitation to participate on the FIFA Executive Committee as a co-opted member -- one of the first women to take part in world football's highest governing body - will have come as little surprise to those who know the citizen of Turks and Caicos.
Everywhere she's gone, at each step of the way in a career dedicated to the game, Bien-Aime has proven to be one who breaks down the barriers in her path. An athlete, who captained her national soccer team and represented her country in softball, Bien-Aime's is a life touched by the beautiful game.
Her distinguished career as an administrator and trustee of the game in the Caribbean began first as a member of the Executive Committee of the Turks and Caicos Football Association nearly a decade ago, two years prior to becoming the organization's General Secretary in 2006.
But well before those experiences in the board room, it was the knocks she took on the field as a centerback and midfielder for those Turks and Caicos national team sides that Bien-Aime credits for instilling the persistence and dedication needed to make it all the way from the Caribbean islands to the highest chamber of FIFA.
"We've never done very well within the region in terms of competition, as we don't have a very large pool of players to choose from," explained the Turks and Caicos General Secretary. "Turks and Caicos Islands has only population of about 35,000, so there you have it, our pool isn't a very large one, as far as players. But playing was great experience for us and it developed us within ourselves."
A legal assistant and paralegal for many years, Bien-Aime's more recent laurels read like a litany of triumphs throughout the region and - indeed - the world: CONCACAF Women's Championship Committee Member, Chairperson of the Women's Football Committee for the Caribbean Football Union, FIFA Women's U-20 World Cup Planning Committee Member, among many others.
As of late last month, she now adds to that impressive list the title of co-opted FIFA Executive Committee member, after being extended the honor by vote of the FIFA Congress in Mauritius.
"I can tell you it has been a journey," she told CONCACAF.com. "First of all to be nominated by CONCACAF as the candidate to serve on the FIFA Executive Committee, that in itself was phenomenal, and something I hadn't expected. There are so many good candidates to choose from in the CONCACAF region. That meant a great deal to me, because it made me realize that someone was taking note. I try my best and work my hardest and put everything I have into football, and to be nominated meant a lot."
Bien-Aime now hopes to bring that diligence full circle, not only tackling the issues crucial to the global game, as demanded by her new post, but also by continuing to influence the game at a local level back home in the Turks and Caicos.
"With my appointment, it will raise the profile of football here in the Turks and Caicos significantly, in terms of the administrative field," she said. "For the playing part, we may still have a bit of struggle, even though we have very talented players here. I'm sure it will help in terms of raising the profile at an administrative level."
The long-time contributor to the game at the CONCACAF and Caribbean areas was co-opted to the FIFA Executive Committee by vote of the Congress in Mauritius, after the Committee proposed including three female candidates in their meetings for the coming term. Lydia Nsekera from Burundi was elected a full Member of the Committee, while Australia's Moya Dodd also was named a co-opted Member, as part of FIFA's groundbreaking efforts to recognize the impact of women on the world's game, and the growing importance of the women's game in FIFA's forward-looking plans.
"I thought it was a great initiative by the FIFA ExCo to make such a proposal," said Bien-Aime. "I think it was very generous of the Congress to accept such a proposal. We all know that the women's game, we have miles to go. We know it's not promoted as much as the men's game. We are facing a lot of struggles within the development of women's football. Speaking to the other members, the elected member and the other co-opted member, we all share a passion and a vision to help develop the game in our region and the world. There's lots of work to do, and this in itself is a start, putting us to work and letting us move with it."
Bien-Aime's position as a co-opted member of the FIFA Executive Committee is yet another coup for the CONCACAF in terms of helping to revolutionize the game, making the world's sport more inclusive.
CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb is a Vice President of FIFA and Executive Committee Member, and leads the game's charge against the scourge of racism as Chairman of the FIFA Anti-Racism and Discrimination Taskforce. Bien-Aime sees the President's initiatives both within and beyond the Confederation's borders as key to opening doors for CONCACAF Members in general.
"It is evident that since Jeffrey Webb became the president of CONCACAF, we have moved in leaps and bounds," Bien-Aime said. "We went through a very trying period recently, one that no one in the Caribbean would want to see again. CONCACAF is making strides and there has been development already. It's not going to happen overnight, it's going to happen over time, but he's making strides already. In CFU, which is a facility of CONCACAF, progress is being made."
Central to the efforts to further progress will be the contributions of Bien-Aime, the newest voice of the region - alongside recently elected Sunil Gulati of the United States -- on the FIFA Executive Committee. Grateful for what has been a whirlwind ride to the halls of FIFA, she now promises to continue to work for the good of the world game, without ever forgetting her roots deep in the heart of the Caribbean.
"I would never have imagined, not in a million years, that I would be serving in this position, especially not at this point in my life," she said. "I can tell you one thing for sure; it's an opportunity that I will embrace, and I will work my hardest and I will perform to the best of my ability, because obviously I want to make a genuine contribution."