The Brazilian official became the first non-European president of Fifa when elected in 1974 and while he was credited with modernizing the organization, Havelange was also criticized as introducing a culture of corruption that plagued Fifa long after his tenure. Havelange, who was suffering from a respiratory infection, died today in Rio de Janeiro, according to the city’s Samaritano Hospital.
Havelange served as Fifa president from 1974 to 1998, when he was succeeded by Sepp Blatter. During this time, he expanded the World Cup from 16 to 32 teams, boosted Fifa’s membership by nearly one-third to more than 200 nations and territories, and created the Women’s World Cup.
His tenure also saw Fifa transformed into a multi-billion-dollar business and with it came financial wrongdoing by its top officials. In 2013, Fifa ethics court judge Joachim Eckert described Havelange’s conduct had been “morally and ethically reproachable.” He resigned as honorary president of FIFA in 2013 after a report found he had taken bribes.