From the moment the South American Confederation, the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol, presented his candidature for the FIFA Presidency in 1970, Dr João Havelange had looked for solutions to the major problems of world football. When the Brazilian was elected at the 39th Congress in 1974, he was ready to consider football not only as a competition but also to try and find new ways and means of promoting technical development worldwide.
Havelange's installation in FIFA's headquarters heralded the dawn of a new era. Previously, with survival dependent almost exclusively on FIFA World Cup™ proceeds in four-yearly intervals, the world governing body had been somewhat conservative when it came to taking decisions. In no time, Havelange transformed an administration-oriented institution into a dynamic enterprise brimming with new ideas and the will to see them through.
The actual address in Zurich, home to FIFA since 1932, did not alter but beside the Derwald Villa on the Zurichberg, which in 1974 housed a staff of just 12, a modern office building now rose housing almost 100 employees coming to grips with an ever increasing workload.
Back in 1974, FIFA was flexing its muscles in readiness for the tenth FIFA World Cup, which was very much a trial of strength between Europe with nine teams and South America with four. The ripples created by political upheavals, particularly in Africa where many former colonies had been granted independence, were beginning to be noticed on the international sports scene. At that time Africa, Asia, and CONCACAF were each still sending one selection each to the world football showpiece. For the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, Havelange duly increased the table of competitors from 16 to 24 teams.
Since that decision, the unqualified success of teams that were once derided as also-rans has reinforced Havelange's notion that his policies were right. For the 1998 finals in France, the field was increased again to 32 finalists, allowing even greater participation from all the confederations.
On a political level, Havelange firmly followed the course of appeasement and service, following the principle of universality to which FIFA has committed itself. Under his leadership, the FIFA offices became the hub of sporting diplomacy. One notable example of this was when representatives from Iraq, Iran, the two Koreas, Japan and Saudi Arabia came face to face in Zurich in July 1993 to discuss the Asian final qualifying round for USA 94 in an atmosphere of friendship and peace.
Havelange had already shown his flair for taking advantage of the conciliatory potential of football at exactly the right moment. After intense diplomatic activity - the Brazilian visited every association at least once- he smoothed the way for the People's Republic of China to return to FIFA. In 1991 the two Koreas sent a joint team to the FIFA World Youth Championship in Portugal. And because of its particular situation, Israel began competing with European teams in all FIFA qualifying competitions.