Joao Havelange, who ruled FIFA for over two decades overseeing its expansion into a global game and a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, has died aged 100. His legacy was marred by allegations of receiving millions in kickbacks via the now defunct Swiss-based sports marketing firm ISL/ISMM.
The Brazilian died in Rio de Janeiro's Samaritano Hospital on Tuesday, the hospital said.
The former president of the world football governing body, an Olympic swimmer and water polo player for Brazil, had been in hospital recently with respiratory problems.
The Brazilian flag was lowered to half-staff at Olympic venues and the International Olympic Committee said its "thoughts are with the family and loved ones" of Havelange.
Under his presidency, FIFA’s flagship event, the World Cup, expanded from 16 to 32 teams, turning it into one of sport's biggest events.
He oversaw six World Cups from 1974 to 1998, when Sepp Blatter replaced him. He also helped secure lucrative broadcast deals, brought nations into FIFA, and created the women's World Cup.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino praised Havelange, saying the "whole football community should be grateful" for his contribution.
"During his 24 years as FIFA president football became truly global, reaching new territories and bringing the game to all corners of the world," Infantino said.
However, as more money flowed into the game, allegations emerged of widespread financial corruption by its top officials, including Havelange.
He resigned as honorary president in 2013 following an investigation into allegations he had accepted millions of dollars in bribes from Swiss marketing agency ISL/ISMM to retain the company as FIFA’s sole official marketer.
Havelange was never punished as the offences did not breach Swiss criminal law at the time. His name, along with others, was initially kept under wraps by a Zug court that investigated the kickback scheme, but the gagging order was eventually lifted. In 2013, FIFA ethics court judge Joachim Eckert said Havelange's conduct had been "morally and ethically reproachable."
Three of FIFA's most notorious officials - his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner - joined FIFA's executive committee during Havelange's presidency. All three were subsequently swept up in corruption investigations by Swiss and US authorities last year that also brought the end of Blatter's 17-year presidency.
FIFA was a small organization with about a dozen employees when Havelange took over at its Zurich headquarters in 1974.
"I found an old house and US$20 in the kitty," Havelange told FIFA's website. "On the day I departed 24 years later, I left property and contracts worth over US$4 billion. Not too bad, I'd say."
In a statement Blatter said: "Rest in peace, Joao...football — your passion, my mission — is in good shape. You should be proud."
swissinfo.ch with agencies