BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
A former colonel in the Swiss Army, Joseph S. Blatter was on this date 8 June 1998, elected as FIFA’s President to replace the outgoing Dr. João Havelange at the Federation’s 51st Ordinary Congress in Paris.
In the process, he became the eighth president of the world football governing body that was founded in 1904. The pendulum of control of the football governing body thus swung back to Europe, the continent that had held sway since the body’s formation in 1904.
Even then, the retiring Havelange, though a Brazilian, had his roots in Europe as his parents hailed from Belgium before emigrating to Brazil before Havelange was born.
His father, Faustin Havelange just missed the ill-fated RMS Titanic in its maiden voyage of April 1912, four years before Joao Havelange was born.
Blatter’s appointment came after 23 years of dedicated service in various other positions in FIFA. He joined FIFA in 1975 as a technical director – a position he held till 1981 when he was elevated to the position of General Secretary.
He was re-elected as head of FIFA in 2002, and was re-elected unopposed for another four years on 31 May 2007, even though only 66 of 207 FIFA members nominated him.
Blatter was reelected in 2011 and 2015. Like his predecessor Havelange, Blatter sought to increase the influence of African and Asian countries in world football through the expansion of participating teams in various FIFA tournaments.
His tenure was dogged by dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption leading to his unceremonial exit shortly after his reelection in 2015.