RIO DE JANEIRO: The contradictory legacy of Joao Havelange has been underlined by the author of his biography writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Ernesto Rodrigues, the journalist and TV documentary-maker who wrote Jogo Duro: A Historia de Joao Havelange*, commented after the death at 100 overnight in Rio de Janeiro of the former FIFA president and Brazilian football supremo.
Havelange was a transformative but ultimately contentious figure in the evolution of modern sport (see http://keirradnedge.com/2016/
Rodrigues said: “I think that Havelange will be remembered both as a ‘mafia-type’ boss but also as a man who transformed the footballl into an billion-dollar entertainment.
“He was also a rare combination of an authoritarian in the way he ran football but a visionary in the way he ran the business of sport. His problem was that his vanity was stronger than his intelligence.”
FIFA’s current president, Gianni Infantino, said: “During his 24 years as FIFA President football became truly global, reaching new territories and bringing the game to all corners of the world. Something the whole football community should be grateful for. I extend my condolences to his family.”
Sepp Blatter, general secretary of FIFA during most of Havelange’s reign and then his presidential successor, paid his own tribute.
Blatter, banned from football for financial misconduct in office, said: “The name Havelange will always be equated with the development of football, (…) which has made football an undisputed power for integration, the leading sport in social and social affairs – with all the associated cultural, economic and political influence.
“He had a vision to make the football a global game. His slogan was: ‘Football is a universal language’ – and he was right..”
A fawning tribute came from Jack Warner the former president of central and north American confederation CONCACAF, who is fighting extradition from Trinidad & Tobago to the United States on FIFAGate corruption charges.
Warner described Havelange as “the man who changed the face of football forever.”
He added: “When Dr João Havelange ascended the football throne the sport was virtually bankrupt but by the time he left, it had become the most affluent sport in the global village.
“He was one of the most progressive thinkers who was never starved for ideas and the quantum leap that took place in the sport was as a result of his vision which he shared even after he officially took his exit from football.”
Legal battles still continue over the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Trinidad which Warner has always asserted was a direct gift to his own family.
** Jogo Duro: A Historia de Joao Havelange by Ernesto Rodrigues (only in Portuguese, published by Editora Record, 2007).