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For better or worse? How Havelange's global vision changed football

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Tim Vickery | 09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Laid low by an infection, former Fifa president Joao Havelange is gravely ill in a Rio hospital, where no doubt he is profoundly irritated at being forced to interrupt his daily routine of swimming 1,000 metres.

At the age of 95, Havelange remains a force of nature. Over 30 years ago he used his strength to change world football.

When Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards made his recent remarks about Fifa "stealing football from the English", there can be little doubt that he had 1974 in mind. That was the year that Havelange unseated England's Sir Stanley Rous to become Fifa president.

It was a time of change. After the Second World War, Europe represented more than half of Fifa's membership. By 1974, the old continent was down to less than a third. The post-colonial age was producing new nations, increasingly unhappy at being shut out of the game.

Havelange was elected on a pro-developing world ticket. He promised an expansion of the World Cup, with more places available for non-European nations. He pledged to introduce World Cups at Under-20 and Under-17 levels, tournaments that could be staged in the developing world.All of this had to be paid for - and it was here that Havelange commercialised the game, bringing on board multinational sponsors to help bankroll his new agenda.

Much of this has problematic elements. The extent to which the game sells its soul with such commercial dealings is an interesting debate, though by no means one limited to Fifa business.

Joao Havelange was Fifa president between 1974 and 1998. Photo: Getty

There is little doubt, though, that in the case of Fifa that organisational structures and general transparency were not improved to cope adequately with the amounts of money now sloshing around the game.

There are clear problems in the total dependence of some nations on Fifa hand-outs. The scope for corruption was enormous, and the cold and autocratic Havelange was not the only one to have his name involved with scandals.

Corruption is, of course, deeply lamentable, a cancer that grows in organisations, undermining basic values as it goes. There is, though, a basic point about Fifa corruption which is rarely made; it has been the unwelcome by-product of a project that achieved its aims.

Havelange's ideas of globalising the game were clearly successful. The World Cup was taken to Asia, Africa and the USA for the first time. Football generates amounts in TV rights and sponsorship deals which would have been unthinkable in 1974, precisely because the global popularity of the game has gone through the roof.

Would this really have happened had the Europeans stayed in charge? Would anyone really want to go back to the time of Stanley Rous, who organised the 1966 World Cup with just one place for all of Asia and Africa combined?

To the end of his reign, and with no regrets, Rous fought in favour of South Africa's inclusion, long after the country had been expelled from the Olympic movement. The logic appeared to be that the local FA could hardly be blamed for carrying out government policy.

Nowadays, Europe's clubs protest about Fifa's operations, but it comes across as a smokescreen to help them get what they want - less international football, and more compensation for allowing 'their' players to take part in it.

When it comes to the rest of the world they typically seem more concerned with plucking the fruit than watering the plant. An inclusive, global vision is lacking.

Rightly or wrongly, with all its flaws and problems, Joao Havelange had one.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Could it be argued that Pele's goalscoring record is flawed, given that a large proportion of those goals were scored in friendlies and the Campeonato Paulista?
JJ Donnelly

A) It certainly could. To be fair to Pele, though, the Campeonato Paulista (Sao Paulo State Championship) was much, much better in his day than it is now. It was taken much more seriously and the depth of talent was much deeper than these days, when so many Brazilians are sold abroad.

Having said that, Pele's scoring figures have been boosted massively by friendlies, games in the army and so on. None of this detracts for a moment from his greatness as a player. He was a machine for playing football, and time and time again he passed the real test of the great player, giving magnificent performances for his team on big occasions.

For this reason Pele was very unwise recently when he said that Lionel Messi needs to score 1283 goals to be worthy of a comparison. The greatness of Pele does not lie in statistical accumulation.


Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Brillian Column as ever Tim. Do you think we will ever see another British FIFA president or do you think Sir Dave Richards' outdated comments has alieanted us formt he rest of the footballing world even further.

  • Comment number 2.

    "They seem more concerned with plucking the fruit than watering the plant."


    Nice one Tim, quality blog as usual.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was aware of Joao Havelange, but never realised how much he did for the spread of the sport world wide. Yes, like you have stated there are always flaws to any plan but fifa is truly world wide accepted. Also what a great idea to have world cup for under 17, etc.

    Tim, what will be the next big thing for the evolution of football? (apart from video technology)

  • Comment number 4.

    It's difficult to argue with any of your points, Tim. Stanley Rous was so euro-centric (and very biased towards The British teams), that it now looks embarrassing. He also refused to make any kind of moral stand against racist, fascist or ''socialist'' governments who were using the game as propaganda. If Britain's best export was the beautiful game, Rous was trying to take his ball home.
    It's just a pity that Havelange left the organisation with so many holes in the hull, where corruption can flood in.

  • Comment number 5.

    Interesting to read a more even-handed account of Havelange's reign at FIFA, than that which is usually trotted out by British journalists. Dave Richard's recent statements sum up perfectly for me why the rest of the world dislikes England, certainly in a footballing sense. Arrogant and jingoistic in the extreme, almost harking back to the "Good old days" of Empire. No wonder they can't win a vote to host a World Cup.

  • Comment number 6.

    While Havelange's dream for world football harmony is laudible, I'm afraid that it has been completely usurped by a man who couldn't organise the proverbial drinking session in a brewery. A man who makes the Mafia look honest and incorruptible. And while he may well not be around for too much longer, unfortunately he has spent the last few years grooming one of the world's greatest ever players into his clone. The game won't change for generations. Not until ALL the dishonest criminals at FIFA are brought to justice.

  • Comment number 7.

    Cracking read as always!

  • Comment number 8.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 9.

    As usual, excellent article Tim. It is really good, and unusual, to find someone on the BBC that has an opinion and is able to express it, well done again!

  • Comment number 10.

    So all said and done we have Havelange to thank for the bubble that seems to never burst. World football has changed a great deal from i was a kid, but the over all change i can see is the investors/sponsers input, without the idea of getting sponserships for tournaments we wouldnt have what we have today.

  • Comment number 11.

    "The scope for corruption was enormous, and the cold and autocratic Havelange was not the only one to have his name involved with scandals."

    As Ricky Gervais might say, "I'd just like to thank my lawyers for their help in wording that sentence."

    Whilst Rous & co no doubt had their issues they were at least consistent - if it related to business or politics then it was a firm "no comment". Not very gallant when dealing with fascist regimes but at least everybody knew where they stood and football could not be manipulated for political gain.

    Whereas now it's all politics and pocket-stuffing. Sad to say it but the lawyers will soon be the only ones watching.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim. Good blog - pretty fair on the plusses of havelange era while admitting there were failures. Could Havelange have done more to protect the game from corruption, even given the unforseen exponential rate of growth of income? Did he have the motivation to?

    Also quick question about your Pele answer - his total of 1280 goals in 1363 games includes friendlies and State champioship games. What is his goals/games numbers for other games i.e. internationals plus top flight league and cup games for his club. I suspect it's still pretty impressive. How does it compare with players like Romario or Puskas, or even Messi?

  • Comment number 13.

    Harsh on Stanley Rous. There is still a big gap between Europe/South America and Africa/Asia/Oceania/Central America, we still see it even now at every World Cup even though the gap has closed. You assume Stanley Rous would have kept the World Cup a closed shop for Europe and South America but where was the quality of African teams in the 1960s and early 70s? We've all seen the Zaire team footage from 1974, they didn't even know the rules of football. I don't think the expansion of the World Cup has actually helped the tournament, all you get are games like Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (2002 I think) and the tournament takes ages to get going, unlike the Euros.

    The assessment of Rous is unfair. Yes, he may have been a traditionalist and saw the UK as the heart of the game, and maybe he wasn't doing enough to promote and improve the game in the developing world, but at least he wasn't corrupt.

    There are always those who seek to undermine England's 1966 victory with mutterings of favouritism with refereeing and fixtures but to that, all I say is ask the Italians and the Spanish about 2002 and Japan/South Korea.

  • Comment number 14.

    The issue now with the globalised world cups now is that they are total bore fests. The 2010 WC from 1st game to final was the direst occasion I've ever seen.

    The Euros are lot higher in quality and entertainment for some reason (probably has something to do with the weather).

    Fifa sold their soul to the money makers, they're making hay while the sun shines and you can't really blame them in this morally inept, greedy world we live in. Problem is, what happens when that bubble bursts and fans eventually give up? Although, I can't see that happening for a long time such is the appeal of the game.

  • Comment number 15.

    #8 is spot on. Champion's League knock-out games are more entertaining than World Cup games. CL is now the pinicle of football, international games (especially featuring England) are usually quite dull.

    #13 have to agree with you as well, but only in part. Giving places to rubbish countries makes the groups a bit dull. Qualification wheedles out the poor teams (blatent handballs notwithstanding) and the finals brings together the best teams from each region. How else would you organise it? The rankings are clearly flawed as England are somehow 6th so you can't just take the best 32 nations.

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 Vox populi

    Think that's a bit harsh. Think back to Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal vs France in 2002. North Korea in 1966? The emergance of the USA? All of these games caused interest in the tournament, and around the world. The quality of the African teams is improving constantly, despite there remaining a massive difference in the budgets compared to European FAs. Do you think we'd have the likes of Drogba, E'to, Kanu etc if African countries, for example, had continued to be excluded. The World Cup itself may 'take a while to get going' (the same can be said about the Champions League, and for the same reason) but the game as a whole is, I believe, better for it's inclusive nature.

  • Comment number 17.

    #13 Vox populi

    Isn't protectionism corrupt in itself?

    Look at how far some of the African nations have come, now they are being given a larger slice of the cake.

    In Europe, you need only look at the progression of Turkey since they were invited to compete in European competition.

  • Comment number 18.

    16.At 11:49 27th Mar 2012, Rich_Owl wrote:

    i believe that the less fortunate countries create good players simply due to the kids not having much, 1 football can entertain 10-20 kids, messi grew up without much except football, as did ronaldo and a hand full of the african players, the whole rags to riches story fits with alot of pro footballers these days....excluding Kaka of course ;)

  • Comment number 19.

    #17 which is a joke. 95% of Turkey is in Asia, they've no business being in UEFA. Mind you there are many countries that have no business in UEFA like Uzbekistan and others that take 7+ hours to reach in a plane. If you are flying for that long, you're not over Europe...

  • Comment number 20.

    @ 16. Rich_Owl and 17.cashforhonours, I was really defending Rous' policies in his era, in the 1960s and 70s and why places for African/Asian countries were limited then. North Korea had a great run in 66 and were outclassed in the end. But in reply to your comment, despite the examples you provide and the expansion of the World Cup tournament I really don't think an African team is any nearer to winning the World Cup in 2010 or 2014 than they were in 1986 or 1990. Do you think they are? I don't think Ghana or Ivory Coast in 2010 or right now are any better than Algeria and Cameroon were in the 1980s.

    Also, the USA is a country which are now investing in 'soccer' and throwing money at it. They're not a 'developing country'. The only reason they have taken so long to emerge is that the vast majority of Americans do not follow 'soccer' as a men's sport. Even then, it is now almost twenty years since they hosted USA1994 and started the MLS. For a country with their resources its taken a long time for them to 'emerge'.

    cashforhonours, Turkey's clubs and national team have been part of European competition since 1962, nearly half a century ago under Rous' auspices so yes they have developed but not sure of the relevance here...

  • Comment number 21.

    The problem with the World Cup for me has been the over-exposure of football. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the fact that it's over-exposed as it means we get to see Italian, Spanish, German etc football here but it takes away the excitement of a World Cup. The first World Cup I properly remember is 1990 and there's loads of players that stand out from that tournament that you only saw in a World Cup as tv coverage wasn't as big then. That added to the excitement as there were always players, largely unheard of in England,that stood out.

    Nowadays, the World Cup is largely just the same players we see week in week out only playing less well and looking tired.

  • Comment number 22.

    Amazing post Tim, fascinating.

  • Comment number 23.


    Why am I not surprised at your choice of name?

  • Comment number 24.

    I enjoyed your blog Tim, while not agreeing with all you write. You seem to be saying the results justify the means. The widened appeal and participation that football enjoys is clear for all to see. Stating corruption is "the unwelcome by-product" of this success as if it is inevitable and in some way acceptable is exactly what many find hard to swallow from FIFA.

    Coming back to development and the widened appeal and participation in football. The World Cup has been hosted around the world since 1974, the Europeans and South Americans (mostly Brazil and Argentina) still dominate. The best football in domestic competitions week in week out is played in Europe ("old continent"), something that also has not changed since 1974. This is due to the "old continent" continually improving on and off the pitch. It should not be a surprise that players want to travel far from their country of origin to be a part of it, I am sure they are not plucked against their will. Athletico Bilbao seem to be an exception in fielding only home grown talent by choice, a model that some in UEFA find very attractive.

    The FIFA story is an example of a good old power struggle that mostly benefits those in power who win the struggle. FIFA against the "old continent", the "old continent" losing out within FIFA but "old continent" winning on the pitch and in the football market place. FIFA should harness this experience rather than trying to diminish European participation. In the absence of the much promised improved transparency, journalists should continue to work to help clarify exactly how FIFA goes about its business.

  • Comment number 25.

    While I agree that the globalisation of the sport is a laudable aim, I think we need to question the motives of those in charge of world football.

    It seems to be that for some time there has been a quid-pro-quo between those in a power and football officials in the developing world:
    - I give you more representation with the governing body, more spaces at international tournaments, a greater chance of hosting tournaments
    - In exchange you support my continued power over world football and suport me whenever there is a scandal etc

    This seems to be the modus operandi of all the recent leaders of FIFA.

    Unfortunately this seems to have evolved in to a quid-pro-quo involving financial rewards - but in essence it is still the same political process of keeping support by paying off those you need to support you. The easiest people to pay off being those who are the 'poorest' - with the least representation, least spaces in tournaments etc.

    Something has to change...

  • Comment number 26.

    Tim, do you ever get bored/embarrassed/a bit sick of all the blind sycophantic back-slapping you receive from followers of your blog? Personally I find comments like "amazing blog Tim" and "great/cracking read/blog as usual Tim!!!" really nauseating. Especially the overuse of the old exclamation mark. I can just picture their moronic faces as they go for OMG! Five exclamation marks? Surely not!!!!! It must grate.

  • Comment number 27.

    #20 Vox populi

    Turkey may not have been the correct choice on my part but was meant as an example of the benefits of inclusion. It is not that long ago since they were being beaten 8-0 on a regular basis. And yes I do believe that certain African teams have a better chance of winning the World Cup. That is not to say that I think they actually will, just that they have a better chance.

  • Comment number 28.

    #26 - he's probably just relieved he doesn't get the abuse Mr McNulty attracts. And just for you I'll give some typical 12-year old post but throwing in some bonus Spanish opening exclamation marks.

    ¡¡¡¡¡Great blog Tim, I read it every week and as you replied to one of my posts two years ago I believe we're mates!!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Funny how some things have changed in Fifa and some things haven't. This article (rightly, in my opinion) implies a level of cynicism toward Sir Stanley Rous' refusal to expel apartheid South Africa from the organisation. However, in our new and modern era, Sepp Blatter's Fifa have awarded the hosting of a World Cup to Qatar, a country where homosexual acts are illegal.

    Some believe football should stay out of politics, and I can understand their reasons. Football can unite a people in the way that politics can't. However, I don't think Fifa should be rewarding countries that are still unashamedly exclusive toward the rights of certain people, just like they shouldn't have done with South Africa. Refusing to give Qatar a World Cup for this reason might make the people living there take a look at themselves and the way that their interpretation of 'holy text' excludes millions of people around the world.

  • Comment number 30.

    Good blog Tim as ever

    #5 agree completely with your comments on Havelange and on the stupid 'colonial' comments by Dave Richards. The failed WC bid showed they had no mates and it was no surprise to anyone outwith England.

    Wouldn't agree with the benign view of Rous as articulated by some on here. The subtle 'engineering' of the 1966 WC might not be seen as corruption on the scale of some countries but its in the same bag: making the 'right' ref choices for all the games involving the South American teams; home games for the hosts throughout; altering the venue for Portugal at the last minute.

    There will never be another English president of FIFA and after Dave Richards comments its not hard to understand why.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't think Fifa should be rewarding countries that are still unashamedly exclusive toward the rights of certain people, just like they shouldn't have done with South Africa.
    There is an obvious tension between expanding the game and your comment: the WC might land itself in some politically dubious parts of the globe but then again it may help overcome prejudices through sport/ football.

    But the real problem with your comment is that if we were to apply it to selecting a host, then there would be very very few countries at present who would qualify to be hosts.

  • Comment number 32.

    Have to say this was a below par blog, primarily for the fact that memory serves an article was already published on Havelange stepping down. As part of this article, it was alluded that he had made extensive steps to globalise the sport and bring it to new markets, where as Rous was known for his divisive stance. So this blog, albeit well written, wasn't particularly original.

    Have to say, I agree with Dave Richards' comments, FIFA have stolen football and hold a steely grip on the game. Though I wouldn't approve of the "english" having control of it either, I think it says it all when a guy like Blatter has managed to stay in charge for so long.

    To also make a comment justifying corruption as part of the greater good is a bit of a shock. I suppose it's the same as "collateral killings" that the US army are so "fond" of.

  • Comment number 33.

    Have to agree with several other posters here. The state of "world football" in 1974 is not comparable to the level it is at in 2012.

    In 38 years, has much changed? Last year's world cup was between two european teams, and the semis had 3 european and one south american. Hardly paints the picture of a globalised landscape.

    Methinks they were more interested in setting up contacts across the world and charge exorbitant amounts from sponsors. is the word "transparency" even present in the FIFA vocabulary?

  • Comment number 34.


    You cannot be serious!!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.


    I believe "transparency" is definitely in FIFA's dictionary, Blatter has used it to describe his ideal kit for womens football.

  • Comment number 37.

    Not sure about the photo used in the blog, Havelange looks like Viggo from Ghostbusters 2

  • Comment number 38.

    A daily swim of 1,000 metres is pretty impressive as well. Do we know if he still does it now as a 95 year old, and if not at what age did he stop? They don't build em like that anymore!!

  • Comment number 39.


    Nice one!

  • Comment number 40.

    If people think that he or his brother in law had footballs best interests at heart they then should read David Yallop's book 'How They Stole The Game.

  • Comment number 41.

    #19: "there are many countries that have no business in UEFA like Uzbekistan and others"

    What are you gibbering about? Uzbekistan aren't in UEFA. They're part of the AFC as they should be. In fact they finished fourth in the last Asian Cup and I wouldn't be surprised to see them at the next World Cup.

    Check your facts next time lest you inadvertently make yourself look like an idiot.

  • Comment number 42.

    Because Fifa represents world football it ought to be run by perioidcally democratically elected committees to avoid or at least reduce the risk of autocratic decisions and corruption.
    It is not fair on Havelange or Blatter to sit back and do nothing and expect them to be whiter than white after so long in complete control.
    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • Comment number 43.

    Im more concerned that Dave Richards, a man who effectively ran Sheffield Wednesday into the ground, was knighted for "services to sport" and is involved in our national game. He shouldnt be involved in any football team, playing, owning, managing, anything football related whatsoever.

    Flexi Football

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm not sure what's the problem if African teams are not yet contenders for the WC, it's not like the European contenders aren't usually Italy and Germany.

    personally, I really don't care if international football is not as good as club (although Germany, Spain and Uruguay shows that a long-term project is viable for good results and football), I think the point of the WC nowadays is the story of ressurgence of countries like Uruguay, New Zealand going out of a cup unbeaten, etc. but I'm not against changing the rules for the group stage if that will result in more entertaining matches (even if it means New Zealand might loser their matches 0-8)

  • Comment number 45.

    #36 , good one :)

    international football doesnt really intrest me anymore , the last few world cups have been boring , especially the last one , that was the worst world cup i have ever seen. I much prefer the CL . Plus all the curroption and dodgy dealings. I think its unfair to look back to the 70's and boast the games better and richer now , kinda obvious that would have happened anyway. You have judged rous very unfairly , seemed a very one sided argument against him.

  • Comment number 46.

    is it no odd that those fans that find the WC boring are those that unfortunately support very unsuccessful international teams...

    I cant see a richer cultural event in sport than the WC, which apparently in many respects is bigger than the olympics. No event in the history of the world, be it war, sports etc assembles more people in the world than the WC. every country in the world has a national team, and even many that arent countries like the samis or the monegasques.

    And for those stating the corruption of FIFA, I dont have any inside information, but if it does exist to the amount some are stating are you seriously saying the champions league wins the moral argument? If it wasnt becasue of platini, the top three or four leagues in europe would happily enter 7 teams each and forget the rest of europe.

    Football is a UNIVERSAL game, its popularity is down to this, and the WC is the most UNIVERSAL competition there is in any sport.

  • Comment number 47.

    oh and nothing, nothing in football comes close to seeing your country lifting a world cup!

  • Comment number 48.

    post 43 is spot on,there are people who should not be allowed anywhere near football at any level and the fa are forever finding them and giving them positions of importance so it's inevitable that the usual gaffes and taken out of context remarks will continue to make us the laughing stock of world football. oh for people with footballing experience at grass roots level to hold senior positions to the exclusion of the old school tie legions of self opionated oafs who embarrass us.

  • Comment number 49.

    The reality is that football has evolved greatly since Havelange was replaced by Blatter.

    The money now in club football is huge and therefore the biggest Clubs (currently in Europe but that may change) have ever increasing bargaining power. There are many campaigning for the abolition of international football, along with the removal of local identity from individual clubs. They would say they want to take their product to global fan bases. Local people who have paid huge amounts of money would see that as a terrible betrayal. Whether the media circus has distorted the truth, who knows, but there is a material risk that English football will be destroyed by that.

    I don't think you should blame Havelange for the state of individual country's FAs. Corruption has been endemic in many parts of the world in the 20th century but progress is being made, slowly and steadily. Some places retreat, many others advance a bit. It's the same in football. Bungs are paid, sweet contracts given to 'the boys' in return for electoral favours. But FIFA raises a lot of money which it wants to distribute for football projects the world over. Whether that money is well spent or not, you'd better ask others. But I don't think the aim is bad and nor are all the outcomes bad.

    The real questions to be asked right now concern global governance: the current structures evolved when international football was the highest honour and people played for their country for nothing, whilst earning a fairly average wage for the day playing for their club. Now we have multimillionaire footballers, clubs turning over £300m or more and international football still doesn't have adequate financial remuneration structures for using those players under contract to clubs.

    The rules are managed by FIFA but they appear to be laggards, not leaders, when critical issues like goal-line technology comes up. It's been an issue which has not shown FIFA in a very good light. Whether it is true or not, the delays raise the possibility that referees were bunged, something which with goal-line technology would simply not be possible. With the money available for winning now, that technology is vital for the credibility of the game. FIFA is coming to the game a bit late in my opinion.....

    Key tournament rights awards are shrouded in secrecy. There's a strong case for every FA to have a vote and all voting to be transparent. There might be a short, sharp shock of accusations of skulduggery, which if money had changed hands might lead to a few jail sentences. But it'd flush the system out fairly quickly.

    What has never, to my mind, been adequately enunciated recently is this: what is it that FIFA, and only FIFA, can do, does do, should do?

    Perhaps a lot of the bickering would die down if that were enunciated effectively, eh?

  • Comment number 50.

    #47 BleuBlancRouge

    I agree, International football is football in it's truest form. Sure, some poorer nations do not have the resources to put into football development within their own countries but no one is allowed to go out and spend millions of euros/dollars etc acquiring the best players from around the globe. You have to make do with what you have got. Admittedly some countries are pushing the naturalisation rules a bit but that is maybe something for FIFA to look at more closely.

  • Comment number 51.

    Havelange was in the game for Havelange's own interests. All are found out in time. The commercialisation of the game under his and Blatter's remit is a cancer which the genuine fans have to live with.

  • Comment number 52.

    no one is allowed to go out and spend millions of euros/dollars etc acquiring the best players from around the globe. You have to make do with what you have got. Admittedly some countries are pushing the naturalisation rules a bit but that is maybe something for FIFA to look at more closely.

    Hello cashforhonours

    Yes, a good point that I forgot. You do with what you have.
    The naturalisations rules are maybe a bit laxed...but better than before...Was it not di steffano thta played for three different countries?!

  • Comment number 53.

    50 + 52. I think Qatar have done just that!

  • Comment number 54.


    International football is football in its truest form? I'd argue that the truest and purest form of the game is found at the other end of the spectrum, at the absolute grass roots i.e. a bunch of kids kicking a ball around a park, laughing and smiling and not falling around pretending their hurt and not sticking their hands up to prevent a goal by handling the ball and not arguing over the slightest matter when they know they are wrong and in fact just playing for the love of the game. While organising the game way back when was deemed necessary to make it professional, and while an international governing body is necessary to make the professional game global, FIFA stole the game from its founders (whether you accept that to be China or England is a moot point) and together with UEFA, they have raped the game of its purity by turning the international club and national tournaments into cash cows, with the cash more important than the game. How else to explain the insistence on beer being sold in Qatar for the 2022 tournament, when Qatar has long standing anti-alcohol laws? It's not for the good of the game, it's because Budweiser is a major sponsor. I don't doubt that people like Joao Havelange may well have entered into this work with the purest of intentions, but power corrupts and this game has been corrupted absolutely

  • Comment number 55.

    Those rich oil states have always had a few brazilians...even Japan as early as the mid 90s I remember them having a brazilian player

  • Comment number 56.


    You're right, I believe he was called Alex, if memory serves. I seem to recall him being a black player with quite tall hair

  • Comment number 57.

    Watching the apoel game!

    Ronaldo gives the ball away.

    Commentator..........."that's a rarity"

    He must not watch him regular enough.

    wasn't the first time in this game either!

  • Comment number 58.

    @55 + 56 - Ruy Ramos and Wagner Lopes were the first.

    In the case of both of them, they both had to go through the exact same process anybody wanting to gain Japanese nationality has to do. Stay ten years, speak the language and intend to live in the country for the rest of their lives (which they did.) Lopes is currently assistant manager at Gamba Osaka and Ramos is a TV pundit.

    To be fair, the Japanese system shows no favouritism or eagnerness to have them play football for Japan - unlike several Asian countries which hand out passports and citizenship to South Americans like candy. Looking at you Singapore.

    Even Tulio Tanaka (who is of Japanese descent) still had to go through the 10 year residency period in order to play for the national team.

  • Comment number 59.

    FIFA is still an unwieldy beast but as are most organisations of similar size. The danger is to assume that things have improved just because there is more money involved. (Corporate sponsorship was/is the way forward for most sports, you can only keep squeezing the punters for so long).

    The game itself has changed undoubtedly through amendments to rules and encouraging attacking play is the way forward I believe, ie no back passing and constant alteration of the offside rule. And yet at the same time while some new laws can, seemingly, be introduced with very little fuss, something as straightforward as goal-line technology is repeatedly placed on the backburner.

    A modern direction seems to be surrounding the physicality of the game. I personally wouldn't want to see a sanitisation of such proportions whereby tackling for example is outlawed. Football is a contact sport and should remain so. Already simulation has increased to such an extent that it threatens the integrity of the sport.

    One final point, corruption exists everywhere. Football is not the only avenue open to unscrupulous characters. Unfortunately the English "sense of fair play" is not a sentiment shared by most of the world. Many developing countries (and no doubt a few developed ones as well) view it as part and parcel of getting the job done. Obviously not right but this holier than thou, whiter than white attitude perpetrated by some is at best naive and at worst rather sickening.

  • Comment number 60.


    Of course you are right about football at it's purest, but I do think that you know what I meant.


    I hadn't even thought about those guys. I was thinking more of Senna playing for Spain for example and closer to home English players playing for my own country, Ireland via the 'granny' rule which I have never being very comfortable with.

  • Comment number 61.


    I forgot to ask whether you would be watching the new series of Mad Men starting tonight?

  • Comment number 62.

    Well written as always but some of the conclusions you draw are a little stretched. While Havelange did some good for football, he also continued the divide between Europe and South America, the same as Rous. Not good for the game.

    “Havelange's ideas of globalising the game were clearly successful.”
    This wasn’t exclusively his idea. The North American Soccer League was well under way in 1974. Football was huge in Japan after they won an Olympic bronze medal 6 years earlier. Football would probably have been just as popular with or without Havelange or Rous, or FIFA.

    “The World Cup was taken to Asia, Africa and the USA for the first time.” Havelange took over in 1974, the first world cup to be held outside the traditional locations was in the USA in 1994, 20 years later!

    “There is, though, a basic point about Fifa corruption which is rarely made; it has been the unwelcome by-product of a project that achieved its aims. “
    Don’t buy into that at all. Sounds like you’re trying to justify it, which means not dealing with it. The Olympic organisation has been on a very similar journey to FIFA and they seem to have fixed the corruption problem.

    Stupid comments by David Richards, it’s a shame there are lazy thinkers like that who are seen as representing the opinions of football fans in the UK.

  • Comment number 63.

    Unrelated but just thought people reading this might also like this article about an interesting Indian footballer who died recently. I'd never heard of him;

    “Sailendra Nath Manna, a saint among footballers, died on February 27th, aged 87”,

  • Comment number 64.


    That was a fairly pointless comment, really. Well done.

  • Comment number 65.

    The World Cup has become like Miss World and the Eurovision Song Contest, something that once everybody HAD to watch, but now is very missable.

  • Comment number 66.

    What I can't rap my head around is people promoting a World Cup such as the one in 1966. A World Cup of England and whoever they care to invite. The World Cup should be promoted to the World over and not just top European countries... Hello! Who cares if Saudi Arabia lost 7-0 to Germany in 02? Arsenal lost 8-1 to Man United just a few months ago; does that mean they should be excluded from the EPL?

    Here is something that a lot of European people don't know; football is much binger in most third World countries than in Europe. The people in other part of the World such as Africa are very personate about the game and they see the World Cup as something that's even bigger than life itself.

    I think what I am trying to say is that the World Cup is the World's tournament so let it be. If you think the Euros is much better or the EPL is more appealing to you than today’s World Cup then focus on them. The World Cup belong to the World and every corner of it so let's love it for that and hope that Sepp Blatter and Co. can put their act together and keep expanding it to every corner globe.

    The below results are what the World cup is all about.
    02 – Senegal 1 – 0 France
    02 - South Korea 2-1 Italy
    90 - Argentina 0-1 Cameroon
    98 - Nigeria 3 - 1 Spain
    82 - Algeria 2 –1 West Germany
    94 - Bulgaria 2 – 1 Germany

  • Comment number 67.

    everyone should read 'how they stole the game' this guy and his crooners are nothing but crooks middle manning the tv rights of world cups through companies he was heavily invested in while spending millions of fifa money on themselves..

  • Comment number 68.

    Good Lord worse,much,much worse. The policy of including every tin pot nation on the planet is misguided. Smaller or emerging nations should have to qualify to enter the qualifying phase of the World Cup. Reward should not be automatic it should always be earned. By granting all members of the FIFA family equal status the qualifying competition becomes an impossible mess with multi-million pound players having to trudge off to places like Andorra and San Marino in the middle of a season.

    The structure of the World Cup is wrong but so is the administrative structure of FIFA. It should be one nation one vote always and on every issue. Having each federation represented rather than each member invites corruption. ie you need only corrupt three people to gain an advantage instead of 130 odd. Then there is the 'wisdom' of having both an Asian and Oceanic Federation.The latter is by large full of nations who play at a standard which would shame many a Sunday League in the UK. There is also a case for one American Federation rather than two.

    I applaud progress on racism within the game and recognise the very many fine efforts made by FIFA in respect of supporting charitable organisations but international football has become cash rich and quality poor and this man started that process. I wish him well in his battle with illness but I have to say I also wish he had taken up another sport.

  • Comment number 69.

    I would argue that with the exception of growing the game elsewhere FIFA (ThiefA to many) has done nothing good for the game. It is now a toy for the wealthy, those of us who football belongs to feel ever increasingly alienated by the game we love. FIFA and Havelange's vision is what has driven greed in the game, and has driven a great many people away from the game.

  • Comment number 70.

    66.At 01:20 28th Mar 2012, Kingdiallo wrote:
    The below results are what the World cup is all about.
    02 – Senegal 1 – 0 France
    02 - South Korea 2-1 Italy
    90 - Argentina 0-1 Cameroon
    98 - Nigeria 3 - 1 Spain
    82 - Algeria 2 –1 West Germany
    94 - Bulgaria 2 – 1 Germany

    Indeed you have pointed out some fine games, but then there is always the rest of the dross that the we are subjected to. The 0-0 "thrillers" between the likes of New Zealand and Iran, or even the "big" games are often disappointments. I fell asleep watching Spain v Germany in WC 2010, and had I not been in the pub watching the final, I would have fallen asleep watching Hollland / Spain.

    @ 68 OldWoodman

    You seemed to have inadvertently contradicted yourself! Initially you had suggested that the current voting format should be one nation, one vote. However, you then go on to say that there is a case for representing nations via a Federation. I personally think it should mirror more of a UN structure, or have some form of "weighted" voting.

  • Comment number 71.


    I wouldn't say pointless, but flippant maybe. I apologise.


    Equally, the champions league serves up some utter dross in the early stages. Even the occasional final has been known to do the same.

  • Comment number 72.

    I think the last World Cup was the worst one i've ever seen, not even some but the MAJORITY of games were absolute garbage. I think I can remember two at most that I thought were any good.

  • Comment number 73.

    71.At 10:12 28th Mar 2012, cashforhonours wrote:
    Equally, the champions league serves up some utter dross in the early stages. Even the occasional final has been known to do the same.

    Maybe that is just the sad state of modern football? Maybe we have Havelange & Blatter to thank for that?

    @ 72 We all follow United

    The Fulham game was quite boring as well. One team attacked though lacked the cutting edge to do anything, the other was quite happy to defend all night and nick a goal where possible. Glad I didn't make the trip up to OT to watch it!!

  • Comment number 74.

    That it was, I was there and it got a bit tense towards the end!

    But then again, United v Fulham will never be built up to be the pinnacle of football like the World Cup is. As i've said before the World Cup has become watching the same players we see every week, only playing half as well as they do for their clubs and looking absolutely knackered from the season just gone. The last one didn't seem to be helped by that stupid ball either.

  • Comment number 75.

    68, You mean like in the Asian and Concacaf zones where qualification for the 2014 world cup started in 2011? In these areas a multiphase qualification system already exists.

    Good idea in theory but I can't see UEFA wanting to shake up the 2 year World Cup/Euros system.

  • Comment number 76.

    74.At 11:12 28th Mar 2012, We all follow United wrote:

    Yeah good point, utd v fulham has never been billed highly! For what it's worth I thought they neutralised us very well. Valencia didn't seem to get a sniff in at all.

    Hernandez was very frustrating to watch. If he wasn't offside, he was unable to pass the ball.

    Take it you weren't a fan of the WC ball? I actually didn't mind the vuvuzelas, it was refreshing to hear something other than the dreaded brass band!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Fulham did okay defensively, didn't really look to score at all but then a point for them would be a good result. 3 points is 3 points at this stage of the season though so job done.

    No that ball seemed to ruin the whole tournament. I can't remember a tournament at any level of football where players failed to get a shot on target from 20 yards so often. And they weren't just failing to hit the target but missing by miles, I don't think it can have been just them being rubbish. As someone else pointed out, the World Cup (and the Euro's in fact) used to be much watch games. I can take it or leave it now to be honest, even England games.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    77.At 11:57 28th Mar 2012, We all follow United wrote:

    Surprised there's no McNulty blog on Chelsea or one on Man Utd yesterday. What does he actually get paid to do? At least with Vickery you get something fresh on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week if there's any breaking news.

    I don't think the launch of the new ball helped, but at the end of the day they're football players. Is it that different playing with a marginally different ball?

    Must say I'm looking forward to the euros, should be interesting with it being based in eastern europe. Hoping for some upsets.

  • Comment number 80.

    would i like to go back to the time of stanley rous
    yes please

  • Comment number 81.

    #78.At 12:07 28th Mar 2012, ScipioAfricanus

    Playing the "racist card" is just so tedious.

  • Comment number 82.

    England WILL win the World Cup, but only when the Home Countries are the sole particiPANTS. English football is a joke, none of the TOP 20 player in the premier league are even English.

  • Comment number 83.

    Scipio, got up on the wrong side of the bed today didn't you!

  • Comment number 84.

    Interesting blog Tim.

    as far as englands future participations in competitions that actually matter i fear all we will be subjected to is " some people think it's all over, it is now " which i think goes way back to 1966.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    @ Thrashball - I think I did mate.


    Honestly though World football is in better shape than ever. At all levels. The problem comes in clearing out the mess inevitable at any "building site" as well as developing the game further. Football can never lose its soul, have you never seen kids with no ball control or technique playing the "game" with pure unadulterated joy? They love big stars not bcos of their money, cars or women, but for their footballing skills.

  • Comment number 87.

    Yeah I thought they'd be a Chelsea blog on today. They did what they needed to do against not great opposition and look set for the semi's now. That's part one of this week out the way for them, now they need to hope and pray Milan can beat Barcelona tonight!

  • Comment number 88.


    as chief sportswriter Phil only cover the biggest matches and breaking stories

    as chelsea are no longer considered " big " and there are no " stories " worth writing about as far as the bigger picture is concerned its little wonder there is no blog about them.

    as for united, it seems Fulham being robbed of a point is not worth a blog either, shame really but thats life.

  • Comment number 89.

    The “world” game is synonymous with allegations of corruption which is a huge shame and why the World Cup is going backwards in terms of football achievement. You can acknowledge Havelanges’ and even Blatters’ roles in broadening out participation but it seems only to have led to a watering down of the appeal and quality of the competition.

    2010 was frankly a bore only livened up by a final which resembled more of a fight than a football match. Brazil 2014 is looking ominously like a recipe for chaos that will do nothing for the reputation of the World Cup as it advances to what will be challenging years as the “new frontiers” of Russia and Qatar are drawn in.

    I agree with those that feel the Champions League has taken over from representative International football, not sure I find that appealing but it is nonetheless true.

    I hope the 2012 Euro Championships is one to remember for all the right reasons.

  • Comment number 90.

    Football in general may be in a better state with more players/teams playing professionally but I don't think that it is as exciting as it used to be. I don't know whether this is down to me getting older and more world weary, overexposure of players in comparison to it being a treat, falling standards (barring Messi and Ronaldo I don't think there many players as good as the batch from 80/90's) or managers desperate to get results rather than entertain. In that respect I wouldn't mind going back 20 or so years.

  • Comment number 91.

    "I hope the 2012 Euro Championships is one to remember for all the right reasons."

    Easy Jet have relaxed their seating allocations, england supporters should therefore not have to much trouble finding a seat of their choice on an early plane home.

  • Comment number 92.

    Winning a Champions League quarter final away leg isn't 'big'? Maybe not at the Emirates but then I guess they've not had much experience of doing it.

    Agree entirely, as i've said in previous posts there was always a suprise element at a World Cup as it'd be the first time viewers here had seen a lot of the players. Nowadays it's just the usual suspects we see every week, only not playing as well.

  • Comment number 93.

    What are we debating here? Im not sure...

    He did a lot for football but so should any well placed bureaucrat.

    Agree with those that say this blog has already been done here on the Beeb. Also a bit of a non-story.

    However I do always enjoy the question and anwers from last weeks mailbag, and again it did not fail to dissapoint.

  • Comment number 94.

    2010 had great games. Who did not enjoy Die Mannschaft's run (up till Spain)? Or Ghana and Uruguay getting as far as they've ever come since forever? Or Tshabalala's (spelling?) opening goal or even England's "phantom" goal. The world cup isn't about fantastic football, it's about glory...hard earned, bravely fought are the descriptions I want to hear. If I want beautiful football, I'll watch club games.

  • Comment number 95.

    82.At 13:08 28th Mar 2012, ScipioAfricanus wrote:

    So Rooney, 2nd top scorer in the league is not in the Prem top 20?? Oh dear, clearly you must be talking about American Football. Go Giants!!

  • Comment number 96.

    87.At 13:51 28th Mar 2012, We all follow United wrote:

    Yeah it seems odd that he hasn't blogged. He normally averages 2 a week.

    I was surprised how easily outmatched benfica were given that we played pretty poorly against them. Fair play to chelsea. It will amuse me if they beat barca / milan and reach the final!!

  • Comment number 97.

    88.At 13:54 28th Mar 2012, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:

    So what does he get paid to do??

    He had a choice of at least 3 blogs....

    1. Man Utd on course for title decider versus City and Fulham's pen decision. he could have done some research to see which stadium is most profitable at awarding pens for away teams.
    2. Chelsea on course for the semis.
    3. Analysis on the two derby games in the FA cup semis.
    4. Newcastle's form
    5. The relegation battle
    6. Anything of remote interest that can be linked to football
    7. Balotelli "crashing" the unveiling of the new Inter manager

  • Comment number 98.

    Yeah, pull out Wayne Rooney. England's answer to a question no one is asking

  • Comment number 99.

    Joe Hart, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Richards, Cole would all be there I suspect. I'm really bored.

  • Comment number 100.

    LMAO...Micah richards? where? Ferdinand where? Gerrard? Where, Joe Hart yeah!


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