to find any documentatin on X01 and X02João Havelange, FIFA President from 1974 to 1998, was once asked: "Of the presidents to have preceded you at the head of FIFA, which went down in history?" Havelange replied: "Before me, there was Jules Rimet. Other than him, I'm not really sure." Rimet, president from 1921-54, owes his place in the pantheon of football to his brainchild, the FIFA World Cup™. FIFA.com tracked down his grandson, Yves Rimet, who pulled the names out of the hat alongside his grandfather at the draw for the 1938 FIFA World Cup (see photo).
This photo from 1938 is a piece of history. Could you recall the scene for us?
I didn't want to go. Like most children, I was quite shy. When we got to the door of the Salon de l'Horloge, I saw all the people and was even more afraid. As soon as I spotted my grandfather at the table, I headed straight for his side, and didn't even look at anyone else! After that, I remember picking out the balls, of course, and the journalists' questions. The draw I'd made wasn't all that kind to us. I also remember the little presents from the delegations, especially a francesque from the Italians which I liked a lot and have kept to this day.
Did your grandfather talk to you about his work at FIFA?
The 1914-1918 War had reinforced his determination to use football to bring people together. He would talk about it 'till the cows came home, but he said little about the actual game, which he had hardly played in any case. The many different clubs he founded were not based around football. At Red Star, for example, there was fencing, athletics and literature. If truth be told, my grandfather wasn't a great sportsman (laughs)! I also have some texts he wrote. At the Amsterdam Congress in 1928, he delivered an inspired analysis of the balance of power and his vision for the future. Jules Rimet was a great humanist. He had experienced some setbacks in politics when he was quite young, and I think football served as an outlet for his ideals. His grand design was always to bring about the rapprochement of different nations.
Was the FIFA World Cup his pride and joy?
For sure. Perhaps he would be slightly sad to see the point to which professionalism, for which he paved the way as much as anyone, has become somewhat exaggerated in the modern game, far removed from the original spirit. I would exempt the World Cup from this statement as I believe that those who take part in it forget about financial gain. It still has a soul.
What does FIFA's Centennial mean to you?
Personally speaking, it's an evocative anniversary because it reminds me of my grandfather. It's also a great event; its emotive aspect coming from the fact that football has succeeded where politics has failed. There were more members of FIFA than the League of Nations (precursor to the UN before the Second World War) for example, as grandfather was fond of pointing out. It was something of which he was immensely proud.