- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Sonia Bien-Aime hopes her vote on FIFA’s executive committee makes a difference in promoting greater gender equity in soccer’s male-dominated governing body.

The 43-year-old head of soccer’s governing body in the Turks and Caicos Islands was selected to serve on FIFA’s executive committee as the Caribbean’s representative, becoming the first woman on soccer’s top group in a voting seat not specifically designated for a female.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football said Wednesday that Bien-Aime was picked Saturday when its executive committee met in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Obviously, if there are more women, then we can push a little harder and people will begin to hear us,” she said from Carson, California, during a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Several women players sued in an effort to reverse FIFA’s decision to play this year’s Women’s World Cup on artificial turf rather than grass, then withdrew the litigation. While FIFA gave out $576 million in prize money for last year’s men’s World Cup, including $35 million for champion Germany, it awarded $15 million for this year’s Women’s World Cup, with $2 million going to the champion United States.

Her new role, which starts with the July 20 executive committee meeting in Zurich, gives her a greater voice for change.

“I hate having to think about quotas, especially when it deals with women and men,” she said. “There’s always an opportunity for more female voices, but I’m not just going to say that just because I’m a woman. But it wouldn’t hurt to have more females involved. I can’t say that there is a need for it, but why not? We’re no different from the men, and I think we can make the same decisions as they can.”

She says there’s also a wider objective to keep in mind.

“We mustn’t lose sight that we’re there to represent the general interest of football all over the world,” she said.

She fills the FIFA seat that opened when CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands was provisionally fired on May 28 following his indictment in the U.S. on corruption charges and his arrest in Switzerland.

Bien-Aime, a former captain of her nation’s women’s national team, became general secretary of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association in 2006 following her retirement as a player and stepped up to become its president in July 2014.

Lydia Nsekera of Burundi joined the FIFA executive committee as a non-voting member in May 2012, and then was given a voting seat designated for a woman and a four-year term in May 2013 when she received 95 votes from the FIFA congress to defeat Moya Dodd of Australia (70) and Bien-Aime (38). Dodd and Bien-Aime were given non-voting seats and listed as “co-opted members for special tasks.”

Alfredo Hawit of Honduras was appointed CONCACAF president on May 28, becoming a FIFA vice president, and the CONCACAF executive committee also provisionally fired Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, who was to have assumed a seat on FIFA’s executive committee that week. Li also was arrested and indicted, and FIFA also provisionally banned Webb and Li from all soccer activities.

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