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Mathew T George
Mathew T George


'I found $20, and left $4 billion'

Joo-Havelange-1 João Havelange | Reuters

As Rio hosts the Olympic Games, a former Olympian and legendary sports administrator died quietly at the Samaritano hospital in the city. João Havelange, 100, was president of FIFA for two decades. He harnessed the support of those angry with the European domination of FIFA, and unseated Britain's Sir Stanley Rous in 1974. He stepped down in 1998, at the age of 82, and handed over the reins Joseph Blatter.

Havelange would say that when he took over FIFA, the international football body had “an old house (it’s Zurich office) and $20”. FIFA had very few employees then. When he stepped down, he left behind property and contracts worth “$4 billion”, he once said. There is no denying the fact that he made FIFA the financial powerhouse that it is today.

The FIFA website said: “During his six terms of office, 50 new associations joined the world governing body, the FIFA World Cup finals expanded from 16 to 32 teams, and junior, women and indoor footballers were handed their own World Championships. Havelange, however, rated China's return to the global football family in 1980 after a 25-year absence as his greatest triumph.”

Havelange’s legacy was tainted by allegations of receiving kickbacks. The charges saw his exit from FIFA and the IOC. In 2011, Havelange resigned as a member of the International Olympic Committee. It was rumoured then that the IOC was expected to suspend him on claims that he took a $1m kickback. The FIFA ethics court called his conduct “morally and ethically reproachable”, and in 2013, he was encouraged to resign his presidency and continue as honorary president. He was never charged.

In 1999, an IOC survey found that he was rated among the top three sports leaders of the 20th century—behind former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics. The Olympic athletics stadium in Rio’s Engenhão de Dentro neighbourhood is named after him—João Havelange Olympic Stadium. He was part of the Brazilian national swimming side in Berlin 1936 and of the water polo team in Helsinki 1952. He was chef de mission of the Brazilian delegation at Melbourne 1956.

Havelange was hated as much as he was admired. This @GaryLineker tweet says it all: “Joao Havelange, the former FIFA president has died. Football gave him so much. Yes, you read that correctly.”

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Topics : #obit | #FIFA

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