The investigation is on…

Pele with Sepp Blatter at the draw for the 1990 World cup in Rome. The Brazilian legend was not on the top table for the draw of the 1994 World Cup, reportedly a punishment for daring to challenge Texeira over a television deal.-AP

The fact that Joao Havelange, making money all the time, though paid no stipend as FIFA President, remained in power for no fewer than 24 disgraceful years tells you more than all you ought to know about the members of FIFA as a whole, writes Brian Glanville.

The American prosecutors have told us that they will be going back as far as 24 years in their investigation into FIFA’s squalid story. Actually they would need to go back all of 41 years full to unravel the horrid affair. That was when Joao Havelange of Brazil unseated England’s Stanley Rous as President of FIFA in Frankfurt shortly before the start of the World Cup Finals. This he notoriously did by bribing a number of African confederation leaders whom he brought to Frankfurt to vote for him, allegedly with money he had taken from the funds of the Brazilian football federation over which he then presided.

That was the moment when the pass was well and truly sold and continued to be sold up to date, with the belatedly forced resignation as FIFA President of Havelange’s pupil and protege, Sepp Blatter.

Not to mention the ineffable Ricardo Texeira who is now due to face court over the peculation of $100 million. Yet, until some while ago, Texeira was actually in command of the Brazilian World Cup 2014 committee. From which he was abruptly obliged to flee and find temporary exile in the USA. Yet, this is the man the Brazilians deemed suitable to preside over a World Cup.

Texeira, in fact, had a powerful protector and sponsor in Havelange himself, being for several years Havelange’s son-in-law. Until Havelange picked him up and put him into lucrative television contracts he was reduced to incipient poverty, owning no more than a small, struggling farm. He was notorious for his self indulgence as a leader of Brazilian football, known to return from a World Cup abroad with huge quantities of booty, blustering his way through the perfectly legitimate attempts of Custom authorities to demand appropriate payment.

When it came to the Las Vegas (a bizarre choice with no soccer background) draw for the American World Cup of 1994 the previous year, Pele, the greatest of all Brazilian and arguably world football, was not on the top table with Blatter and others. Reportedly a punishment for daring to challenge Texeira over a television deal.

As one who was present, I remember that occasion fondly for the behaviour of that dynamic comedian the late Robin Williams who for some reason or another had been picked to make the actual draw. Bouncing up on to the stage he greeted a bewildered Blatter, ‘Wonderful to meet you after feeling you for so long!’ Then, putting his hand into the transparent bowl he exclaimed, ‘Ah! Panty hose!’ Next morning an American columnist opined in his newspaper that Blatter could always follow a new career as a straight man! Pele’s ‘offence’? Earlier in 1993 in an interview he had claimed that a member of the Brazilian Federation had demanded a bribe of a million dollars to acquire for his company the top rights to the 1994 World Cup. Texeira assumed he was the official mentioned though his name had not appeared; he sued Pele for slander.

As for Havelange, his successful campaign to oust Stanley Rous from the FIFA Presidency was dubiously but massively financed. Some of the money, beyond doubt, was looted from the Brazilian sports confederation of which he was President.

In his remarkable and supremely well researched book How They Stole The Game the industrious David Yallop provided infinite chapter and verse on the way Joao Havelange procured the money with which he bought the votes to unseat Rous in 1974. ‘One question more than any other comes to mind,’ Yallop wrote. ‘Who paid for it all? Who paid to finance an election campaign that, even by the most conservative estimate, must have cost between two and three million dollars. Havelange’s 10-week 86 country tour, for example. Where did the money come for that?’

The diligent Yallop did a pretty good job of tracking it down. When the American magazine PlayBoy asked him that question, Havelange blandly replied, ‘I myself paid for it. After working for nearly 50 years I can allow myself a few luxuries. This was at the time I decided to be the President of FIFA.’ Then asked how much he had spent he replied he hadn’t the faintest idea. This, as Yallop emphasised, from a man used to calculating money, travel, all expenditure with immaculate precision. He managed to bring no fewer than 37 African delegates, most of whom had never been out of their own country, to vote for him in Frankfurt. While Rous did himself great harm by refusing to countenance the expulsion of the then apartheid ridden South Africa from FIFA. Nor did his objection to China being asked to join win him any friends.

When asked by Yallop how Havelange had financed his vastly expensive campaign, the former business partner in the so-called Orwec company, Dr. Lobo, whom he had tried to defraud, replied, ‘Part of the money came from embezzled funds from the Brazilian Sports Federation. The other part came from Orwec.’ This, with no reference to his then partner Lobo, who eventually managed to extract the money that was owed to him. Very important, however, was the money put in by a bunch of crooked Portuguese politicians who had fled to Brazil after the downfall of the long term oppressive ultra right-wing Salazar regime. Orwec was used for money laundering.

Before his election, Havelange had already promised the African countries something else; a far greater representation in a World Cup tournament to be increased from 16 teams to an unmanageable 24. By rights, Colombia should have staged the competition in 1986. But when Havelange eventually, as the new President of FIFA, flew out of Germany to Mexico City in the private plane of the billionaire Mexican television magnate Azcarraga, the die was plainly cast. Colombia were deemed to be too small to accommodate a now 24-team tournament and Mexico who had already staged it in 1970 and, like Colombia, had an oppressive problem with extreme heights and thin air, got it again.

But the fact that Havelange, making money all the time, though paid no stipend as FIFA President, remained in power for no fewer than 24 disgraceful years tells you more than all you ought to know about the members of FIFA as a whole. What protests against his corrupt rule went up from the Europeans? True, the absurd system of one country, however small, one vote would always work in his favour but it was like a massive conspiracy of silence. Then came his successor, Blatter; did money again change hands?