Joao Havelange, the former president of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, from 1974 to 1998 and a former member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has died in a Rio de Janeiro hospital at the age of 100.
Havelange, who spent the last month of his life in hospital being treated for pneumonia, engineered the expansion of the World Cup from 16 to 32 teams.
Born in Rio de Janeiro on May 8,1916 to Belgian immigrants, Jean-Marie Faustin Godefroid de Havelange proved himself to be an exceptional swimmer and represented Brazil at two Olympic Games, competing in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events at Berlin 1936 and forming part of the country’s water polo team at Helsinki 1952.
After serving as president of Brazil’s swimming federation, Havelange was the president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation from 1958-1973.
He resigned to accept the position as FIFA president the next year after defeating Stanley Rous in an election.
Sepp Blatter, who served as Havelange’s secretary-general for 17 years before taking over from the Brazilian as president said football owes him a huge debt of gratitude.
“His ambition was to make football a global game, calling it the universal language and he succeeded,” said Blatter.
The incumbent FIFA President Gianni Infantino praised Havelange, saying the whole football community should be grateful for his contributions.
“During his 24 years as FIFA president football became truly global, reaching new territories and bringing the game to all corners of the world,” said Gianni.
Havelange resigned as honorary president of FIFA in 2013 after an internal report by its ethics committee revealed he had received bribes along with two other FIFA members, including his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, who followed him in governing Brazilian football.
One of the venues for the athletics competition in Rio is known as the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium, a tribute to his contribution in bringing the Games to South America for the first time, and the Brazilian FA has declared a seven-day mourning period with flags at half-mast and a minute’s silence before the next round of league games.