The Rio-born sports executive was the second longest-serving FIFA president. He resigned as honorary president of world soccer's governing body amid a corruption scandal in 2013.
Joao Havelange, the former president of FIFA, died at the age of 100 early on Tuesday. This was confirmed by a spokesperson for the hospital in Rio de Janeiro, where he was being treated. The Samaritano Hospital didn't immediately release any further details, saying it was waiting for authorization from his family.
However, Havelange had been in and out of hospital in recent months with respiratory problems and as recently as July he was hospitalized with pneumonia.
The Rio native became the president of world soccer's governing body FIFA in 1974, when he succeeded the Englishman, Stanley Rouse, becoming the first non-European to hold the post. He remained FIFA president until he stepped down in 1998, when Sepp Blatter was first elected to the position.
Blatter on Tuesday hailed his predecessor as the man who brought football to the world.
"He had one idea in his head, to make football a global game with his slogan 'football is the universal language,' and he succeeded," Blatter said in a statement.
During his time in office, Havelange helped transform FIFA's flagship event, the World Cup, into a multibillion-dollar enterprise, overseeing its expansion from 16 to 32 teams, with 12 of those places coming from Asia, Africa or the CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean). It was also under him that a number of other FIFA tournaments first saw the light of day, including the Under-17 World Cup, the World Youth Cup, the Indoor World Cup and the Confederations' Cup.
Havelange also served as the head of Brazil's swimming federation and spent almost 50 years as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
However, on more than one occasion he was the subject of corruption allegations. It was during one such wave of allegations that he resigned from the IOC, citing health reasons. He did so just days before the IOC's ethics committee was expected to suspend him and rule on claims that he took a $1-million (888,000-euro) kickback in connection with the Swiss marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL).
In 2013 he resigned as honorary president of FIFA amid separate corruption allegations, after FIFA ethics court judge Joachim Eckert reported that Havelange's conduct had been "morally and ethically reproachable."
Prior to entering sports politics, Havelange was a world-class swimmer, who swam for Brazil in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and was part of his country's water polo team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
He also had a hand in Rio winning the right to host the 2016 summer Games, leading off the city's bid presentation in Copenhagen by calling on IOC members to "join me in celebrating my 100th birthday'" at the 2016 Games in Brazil.
pfd/msh (dpa, SID)