FIFA's appointment of supermodel Adriana Lima as its global fan ambassador in a Women's World Cup year is "baffling" and sends the wrong message to players and fans, former FIFA Council member Moya Dodd said.
Brazilian Lima will "develop, promote and participate in several global initiatives" in her role as FIFA's first global fan ambassador, the governing body said in a statement on Monday.
Australian Dodd, a former international player who served on the committee for Australia and New Zealand's successful bid to co-host the World Cup, said the Lima's appointment less than five months before the tournament was "tone deaf."
"At the outset, the model's public image looked an odd fit for an organization that says it wants to empower girls and women," Dodd, one of the first women to serve on FIFA's decision-making body, wrote in a post on LinkedIn on Wednesday.
"I asked whether the FIFA ambassador will be delivering messages on body image, wellbeing and healthy eating. What will this ambassador represent to the large and growing population of aspirational #womensfootball players and fans who love the game because (it) shows us what empowerment and equality can look like?"
Dodd, a member of the FIFA Council from 2013 to 2016, also referred to comments Lima made in a 2006 interview with the magazine GQ in which she said abortion was "a crime."
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lima's publicist, Laurent Boye, said the model's stance had changed in the 17 years since she made those comments.
"We can proudly say that Ms Lima has been promoting a healthy lifestyle for several years and like many people, her position on many LGBTQIA+ and women issues has evolved and she is considered an ally," Boye said in a statement.
Dodd, a prominent women's soccer advocate, represented Australia 24 times from 1986-95 and played in FIFA's women's invitational tournament in 1988, three years before the inaugural Women's World Cup.
"When a girl plays football, the world sees her differently," Dodd said. "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.
"In a FIFA World Cup year, that's the message that should be ringing loud and true around the world. Where a supermodel fits into this is truly baffling."
Dodd recently criticized FIFA for a lack of understanding of the women's game amid reports that Saudi Arabia's tourism authority would sponsor the July 20-Aug. 20 World Cup.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)