Former FIFA president Joao Havelange is dead. He died at the age of 100 years. The Brazilian was predecessor to Sepp Blatter at the world football’s governing body, serving from 1974 to 1998. He was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from 1963 until 2011, resigning because of ill-health.
Born to a wealthy Belgian immigrant family in Rio de Janeiro in 1916, Jean-Marie Faustin Goedefroid de Havelange graduated with a law degree, but sport was his true love.
With six competitions held under his tenure, he led the World Cup’s expansion from 16 to 32 teams as FIFA president. Increasing the size of the World Cup to 32 teams gave countries from Asia, Oceania and Africa the chance to shine on the world stage, Cameroon becoming the first African country to reach the quarter-finals in 1990.
His career was mired in controversy over bribery allegations. He resigned as FIFA’s honorary president in April 2013 following an investigation into bribery allegations and was admitted to hospital the following year with a lung infection.
The year he qualified as a lawyer which was before his election to the IOC, Joao Havelange represented Brazil in swimming at the 1936 Olympics.
As well as swimming at the 1936 Olympics, Havelange was part of the Brazilian water polo team at the 1952 Helsinki Games and was chef de mission for the Brazilian delegation at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
And it was as a sports administrator, particularly in football, that Havelange made his mark.
He embarked on a career which began as president of the Metropolitan Swimming Federation in Brazil. He also became a member of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and joined the International Cycling Union in 1958.
After becoming vice-president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation, he served as president from 1958 to 1973.
In 1974, he became the most powerful man in world football by succeeding Britain’s Sir Stanley Rous to be elected FIFA president, marshalling support among those unhappy at the perceived European domination of the world governing body.
When Havelange was elected president, FIFA’s Zurich headquarters housed just 12 staff members. But that figure increased almost tenfold over the next two decades as FIFA’s organisational responsibilities and commercial interests grew.
It was Joao Havelange who launched a wave of new tournaments, notably the world championships at Under-17 and Under-20 level in the late 1980s and the Fifa Confederations Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup at the start of the 1990s.
Among his last achievements was to use his clout to help Rio win its bid to host this year’s Olympic Games — the first held in South America.
An imposing figure, with piercing blue eyes, his astuteness as a politician and his adeptness at retaining power enabled him to hold the FIFA presidency for 24 years until being succeeded by Blatter in 1998.
Athletes competing in the Rio Games race in a stadium which — despite complaints from some quarters — still bears the name: Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium.
- With BBC reports