Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2016

Former FIFA chief Joao Havelange dies at 100

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Joao Havelange, the Brazilian former FIFA boss and member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has died at age 100.

Havelange was admitted into hospital in July with pneumonia after having been ill for an extended period, and though the hospital did not disclose the cause of his death, it did release a statement offering “sympathy for his family and friends.”

After an appointment as FIFA’s seventh and longest-serving head from 1974 to 1998, Havelange was named honourary president until 2013, before resigning from the post following an investigation over claims that he accepted bribes for lucrative World Cup contracts.

In 2013, FIFA ethics commitee court judge Joachim Eckert called Havelange‘s conduct “morally and ethically reproachable.”

Both Havelange and his former son-in-law, fellow ex-Brazilian FA chief Ricardo Teixeira, were found responsible for accepting bribes from now-defunct sports marketing firm International Sport and Leisure (ISL) over an eight-year period. Havelange and Teixeira were just two of dozens of FIFA executives found guilty of a deluge of corruption claims that tarnished the image of the world football governing body.

While Havelange’s FIFA tenure did end under a cloud of controversy, his impact on the global game cannot be undersold. Credited with expanding the sport in emerging markets like Asia, Africa, and the United States, Havelange was the first, and is still the only non-European head of FIFA.

Under his watch, the World Cup expanded from 16 to 32 teams, and Havelange helped secure big-money television deals, while the image of the quadrennial tournament swelled to today’s high-profile standing. Havelange also had an impact on local football, where as head of the Brazilian FA, the footballing powerhouse enjoyed its most decorated spell, as the nation captured its first three World Cup wins in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He also played a role in introduction of the Women’s World Cup, garnered a spot for the women’s game in the Olympics and helped FIFA’s 204 member federations receive $1 million each from proceeds of television deals from the 1998 World Cup.

Like his FIFA tenure, Havelange’s IOC spell ended in controversy when he resigned in 2011, under allegations stemming from a separate investigation into his relationship with ISL.

Havelange’s transgressions were highlighted by Andrew Jennings’ book ‘Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals’ and later the BBC One program ‘Panorama’ that kick-started the widespread firings, arrests and extraditions of prominent FIFA officials. In Havelange’s case, Jennings’ work identified his involvement in corruption with both FIFA and the IOC.

A close confidant and ally of Sepp Blatter, like the Swiss businessman and ousted former FIFA boss, Havelange's tenure as head of the governing body will forever be deservedly shrouded by corruption scandals that tarnished the $250 billion-a-year international industry and organization he helped grow.

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