Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 16, (GNA/dpa) – Joao
Havelange, the former president of world football governing body FIFA, has died
in hospital in Rio de Janeiro.
Havelange, who turned 100 in May, had been
admitted last month to the Samaritano hospital in the Botafogo district of the
city for treatment for pneumonia, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Havelange was president of FIFA from 1974 to
1998 during which he was one of the most influential figures in international
sport. He resigned as FIFA’s honorary president in April 2013 following an
investigation into bribery allegations
The Brazilian was a former Olympian swimmer
and water polo player who was president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation
during the most successful periods of the country’s football and also a member
of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for more than four decades.
The athletics stadium in Rio was named in
At the Rio Games, organizing committee
spokesman Mario Andrada said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with his
family. Brazilian flags will be kept at half mast today.”
At an IOC press conference, IOC spokesman
Mark Adams would not be drawn on the legacy of corruption issues.
“I think a 100-year-old man has died
today and it would be entirely inappropriate to discuss that today,” Adams
Havelange succeeded Sir Stanley Rous as FIFA
president and for 24 years was the dominant ruler of world football, leading
the World Cup’s expansion from 16 to 32 teams and overseeing the development of
FIFA into a global concern with professional but also corruption-prone
He was the subject of corruption
investigations and allegations by Swiss prosecutors in July 2012 that he and
his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira took tens of millions of dollars in bribes in
connection with the award of World Cup marketing rights.
Born on May 8, 1916, Havelange was a keen
sportsman who competed in the Olympics as a swimmer in 1936 in Berlin and as a
water polo player in 1952 in Helsinki.
From 1958 he was head of the Brazilian
Sports Confederation before he became president of FIFA from 1974.
While building FIFA into a global
undertaking with a turnover today of billions of dollars, the authoritarian
Havelange also stood in the shadow of corruption and faced criticism for
cooperating with dictatorial regimes including 1978 World Cup hosts Argentina.
It is thought the bankrupt sports marketing
company ISL paid more than 100 million dollars in the 1990s to senior officials
In return, the ISL were given lucrative
television and marketing rights. Joseph Blatter, who was FIFA secretary general
and succeeded Havelange, was seen as the Brazilian’s protege and has himself
been mired in the scandals which have rocked the football ruling body.
Blatter, who is now serving a football ban
in the wake of the corruption investigations, said football owed Havelange
“a big thank-you.” Paying tribute to his predecessor, he added:
“Football, your passion, my mission, is constantly evolving. Thanks to
you, it is now as large and influential as never before.”
The scandals however had ruptured many
friendships and business relations, and Havelange fell out with Pele after the
country’s football legend denounced corruption in Brazil’s game.
Havelange was from 1963 to 2011 an IOC
member before stepping down after an earlier investigation into his
relationship with ISL. But unlike some administrators in the current FIFA
scandal he has been spared international law enforcement. He always denied he
had taken illegal money.