Joao Havelange, who died Tuesday at 100, turned FIFA into a global business behemoth and helped bring the Olympics to Rio, only to resign in disgrace after a corruption scandal.
The Samaritano Hospital in Rio de Janeiro confirmed that Havelange, who had been treated there in July for pneumonia, died early in the morning.
Plaudits for the footballing boss quickly came from his controversial successor Sepp Blatter, who was suspended last year as head of FIFA over ethics violations.
“Football owes him a great deal,” Blatter said in a statement.
“He had one idea in his head, to make football a global game with his slogan ‘football is the universal language,’ and he succeeded.
“It’s his development of football that made our sport the uncontested leader in society on the social, cultural and economic levels — and let’s not forget its political influence,” Blatter added.
“I’m grateful to him for trusting me to help develop these ideas.”
Current FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino paid similar homage to Havelange and his legacy.
“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,” Infantino said.
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said that flags would be flown at half mast at Rio Olympic venues.
Brazilian interim president Michel Temer called Havelange one of the “important leaders” of world sport.
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