Joao Havelange: CAF's Godfather?

The Anointed Godfather Of African Football?

Joao Havelange, the former Fifa president has died at his home in Rio de Janeiro aged 100. He could be regarded as the anointed godfather of African football.

He famously owed the developing world for his presidential election in 1974. Despite the allegations of corruption that mired his career towards the end of his life, he is credited with huge globalisation of the game.

The canny sports administrator had done his mathematics on the voting system. He realised that he needed to court Africa and Asia in order to win. This insight was lost on his main rival in the leadership contest for football's world governing body.

The Brazilian came to power on the back of African votes. This accounted for nearly a third of the total. This happened primarily because of his predecessor's gaff. Yes, Englishman Stanley Rous, had alienated the continent through his unrelenting support for apartheid South Africa.

His standing was greatly boosted by the three World Cups Brazil won under his control as Brazilian Sports Confederation president. The former Olympian rightly exploited the issue and pledged to kick out South Africa if he took control.

There were other promises to the continent as well. An expanded World Cup, new youth tournaments and, among others, developmental help.

After his election, it was time to give back to Africa.

With Rous out of the way, Havelange dealt with South Africa fairly swiftly. He expelled the country from Fifa in 1976, a ban which lasted until 1992, as the end of apartheid neared.

He also introduced junior tournaments. He handed Tunisia the first hosting rights, in 1977, for what is called the Under-20 World Cup today.

Eight years later, he ensured Africa had the same representation as Europe and South America in the Under-17 World Cup. This was in contrast to the senior World Cup, as the tournament launched in 1985. Nigeria's Golden Eaglets famously won this maiden edition of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup... for Africa?

A positive fallout of the Under-17 World Cup for Africa emerged. Nigeria was encouraged by the glorious outing of the Golden Eaglets. The setup became a feeder for the senior national team, the Super Eagles.

Future Under-17 teams produced stars like J. J. Okocha, Finidi George, Victor Ikpeba, Emmanuel Amunike and of course the two-time African Footballer-of-the-Year, Nwankwo Kanu. 

These stars, including the Under-20 exponents, went on to play in the senior national teams. Along the way, they famously won the Caf African Nations' Cup in 1994 and the Atlanta '96 Olympics Football Gold medal for Nigeria.

These Nigerian football superstars were quickly bought by top European football clubs. Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George went on to win the UEFA Champions' League with Ajax Amsterdam in 1995.

Back to the story of the Godfather of African football, Joao Havelange (lol). He was slightly hamstrung with his World Cup offer despite overseeing vast global expansion. He partnered with Horst Dassler, the son of the Adidas founder and the father of sports sponsorship.

With the help of improving television broadcast technology and football's hugely attractive lure for sponsors, the pair greatly enhanced football's global reach. Fifa's coffers and - as has been well documented - those of Havelange too exploded.

Africa was not a huge market for sponsors at the time though. It had to patiently wait for its World Cup places to increase. This happened in 1982 when it went from one to two. This was because the finals expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

From 20 footballs to $500,000.

In the interim, Havelange offered a host of developmental programmes and increased funding.

Fifa's finances had previously been so threadbare. Rous had been limited on one occasion to handing out 20 footballs to one African country.

Today, each African country receives $500,000 (£380,000) a year. This is a continuation of the funding grants initiated by Havelange.

A year after his election, Havelange chose someone who came to love African football (and its voting power) to head Fifa's global developmental work. The man was Sepp Blatter.

In 1976, the Fifa technical director's first overseas trip was to Ethiopia where he ran an administrative course.

South Africa: First African nation to host the Fifa World Cup.

When the Swiss protege replaced Havelange in the 1998 Fifa elections, he continued to assist Africa in a variety of ways.

Prominent among them was the change to Fifa's method of determining a World Cup host. A decision taken to ensure that Africa got the World Cup, having controversially missed out on the 2006 finals.

As the 2010 finals kicked off in South Africa, the work started by Havelange in Africa had reached its current zenith.

Like the organisation he led for so long, Havelange was far from faultless. However, his campaign manifesto forced him to help Africa - which he did, despite various delays.

Today, the five World Cup places that he awarded Africa during his reign is the tally the continent still holds.