Former FIFA President Joao Havelange died on Tuesday in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Havelange, who died at the age of 100, served the leader of FIFA for over two decades. Earlier this year, Havelange was in the news for corruption and stepped down as a result. In the later stages of life, Havelange allowed controversies to become a pattern. Many have thanked Joao Havelange for his contributions to international, even crediting him for making soccer the world’s most popular sport.
According to the Samaritano Hospital, Joao Havelange was dealing with a respiratory infection and died on Tuesday morning. In response to his death, the Brazilian flag at the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic venues were lowered to half-staff. Havelange was important in Brazil’s efforts for landing the 2016 Olympic Summer Games as he was a key presenter during their presentation to the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen.
Joao Havelange was born in Rio De Janeiro on May 8, 1916. Early in his life, Havelange was sent to school in France, where he began to play football. However, Havelange thrived at swimming and eventually represented his native country of Brazil at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Later, Havelange won a bronze medal in the sport of water polo with the Brazilian team at the 1951 Pan American Games and also represented Brazil in water polo at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Despite being an Olympic athlete, the most impressive aspect of Joao Havelange’s life occurred outside of sports. Havelange earned a law degree during the year that he participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which came to great use later on in life. Havelange amassed his wealth with a transport business called Cometa, then continued his financial success as a sports administrator.
Joao Havelange led the Brazilian delegation and led them to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Eventually, Havelange began as a member of the International Olympic Committee during the year of 1963 and resigned in 2009. Havelange was in power during what is referred to as a “Golden Age” of Brazilian Soccer, featuring famous soccer star Pele. Havelange oversaw Brazil’s victory in the 1962 World Cup in Chile and their victory at the World Cup in 1970 in Mexico.
Joao Havelange was the FIFA president from 1974 to 1998 and organized six World Cups and expanded the World Cup from 16 teams to 32 teams. The expansion of the game was made possible by lucrative broadcast deals with various major media outlets, allowing more fans to watch live events. FIFA saw unprecedented growth under Havelange and had a presence in over 200 nations and territories.
The increased revenue for global football allowed for the modernization and expansion of the game. New tournaments were launched, including the Women’s World Cup, the Confederations Cup, and world championships for the under-17 and under-20 level. Under Joao Havelange, nearly every country on the planet was offered an opportunity to join FIFA, including expansion in leadership involvement.
What became one of Joao Havelange’s most significant accomplishments was his downfall as well. Corruption became a common theme for Havelange as he was one of the various top officials who were caught for their widespread financial wrongdoing in 1998. FIFA ethics court judge Hans-Joachim Eckert said that Havelange’s conduct was “morally and ethically reproachable.” Instead of being punished, Havelange was given permission to resign as the president of FIFA.
The FIFA scandal was not the first time Havelange made headlines for corruption. In December 2011, claims emerged that he took around $50 million in bribes and a $1 million kickback as a member of the International Olympic Committee. Havelange resigned when he became aware that a suspension was likely to come. Despite this scandal, the Olympic Stadium was named after Joao Havelange at the 2016 Rio Summer Games in his honor.
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