João Havelange was one of the biggest faces in football history from 1958 to 1998, time he spent in his cameos as CBD (CBF’s old name) and FIFA president. Much of the sport’s development not only technically but also economically was during his 24 years reign under the major governmental body FIFA, after beating Englishman Stanley Rous to become their 1st non-European president. After building such a respectful reputation, it was obvious that he’d receive many honors: stadiums named after him, a position at FIFA as honorary president as well as with his heart club Fluminense, and many more.
But it seems that it’s all going to fall apart, after the Swiss Justice revealed that him and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira were involved in ISL’s bribing schemes back in the 90’s.
A popular movement called Núcleo de Estudos e Projetos de Esportes e Cidadania (Center of Studies and Projects of Sports and Citizenship, in English) initiated an online petition asking Rio de Janeiro city government to change Olympic Stadium João Havelange name, popularly called Engenhão due to its localization in Engenho de Dentro’s neighbourhood, to Olympic Stadium João Saldanha. The stadium is city property, but is under Botafogo’s management.
That’s what the petition says:
To Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas board:
We, undersigned came to ask to change Engenhão’s official name, Olympic Stadium João Havelange, as this citizen, João Havelange, not only isn’t a Botafogo supporter but is also involved in obscure corruption cases when he was FIFA’s president, charged with a process moved by the Swiss government.
For the motives said above, we, Brazilians and Botafogo supporters in particular, feel disgusted and ashamed that one of the biggest Brazilian sports complex has (João Havelange’s) name.
So far, more than 3000 people signed this petition, but it doesn’t seem that it took much effect. Rio de Janeiro city mayor at the time Engenhão was build, Cesar Maia, went on to respond criticism and somehow defend João Havelange, saying that in comparison to his ally Ricardo Teixeira, he didn’t received much (Ricardo Teixeira received US$ 13m, while Havelange received US$ 1m from ISL).
And of all people, FIFA’s current president Joseph Blatter now wants João Havelange to drop his title as FIFA’s honorary president. Blatter told Swiss journal “Sonntagsblic” that Havelange can’t stay with FIFA after his ISL deals went to public, and that this subject would be addressed in the next FIFA reunion. Blatter also admitted he was induced by an confederation president to receive a US$ 50,000 bribe to have favourable refereeing in a 1986 World Cup Eliminatory game. But he refused the bribe, and since then no one approached him with these intentions.
I get that João Havelange is already 96 and has been under a fragile health condition at the beggining of this year. But being old doesn’t mean you’ll get a pink slip in your reputation. When Havelange received ISL bribes, he was already in his 70’s, close to his 80’s. I’m sure he was conscious of what he was doing, and he definitely wasn’t “senile” when he accepted the money. Giving him a break at the moment isn’t reasonable. Having his and his former son-in-law names associated with Brazilian football is shameful enough.