Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 17 March 2008

All the Presidential Men (Part 6)

The sixth part of our occasional series looking at the Presidents of FIFA throughout history.

A divided party
The late-1950's were a revolutionary time in world soccer. The African Football Confederation (CAF) had been founded in 1957 to develop the game in that part of the world and the 1958 World Cup in Sweden had witnessed the first real wave of Brazilian dominance featuring the skills and showmanship of Vava, Garrincha and Pelé.

Yet this was also a time of change and one which Stanley Rous found himself thrown into when he became FIFA President in 1961.

Rous was born in Mutford, England in 1895 and his interest in football soon came to dominate his life in one form or another. He played as a goalkeeper at amateur level, was a sports teacher at a grammar school and went onto become a referee where he officiated in the 1934 FA Cup Final and in FIFA international matches.

His refereeing career behind him, he took up a role in the administration of football and was the Football Association's secretary from 1934 to 1962. It was during this time that Rous was assigned the task of rewriting the Laws of the Game to make them easier to interpret, and this he was seen to have achieved.

So when FIFA looked to attain the services of someone that could oversee a period of expansion and change in world football, Rous appeared to have all the credentials and he assumed the role of President following the death of fellow Englishman Arthur Drewry in 1961.

With the creation of the CAF a few years prior to his arrival, a big issue was looming in the background which would see many of the African delegates looking towards Rous for guidance. From 1948, South Africa had implemented a system of apartheid which operated a form of legalised segregation in its country that many of its international allies were opposed to. The CAF moved quickly to ban South Africa from being one of its members accordingly and asked Stanley Rous to do the same within FIFA.

Rous, however, had a dim view of taking such measures and took the ideological high ground that every country had a right to be a member of FIFA regardless of its politics. He felt that it wasn't FIFA's place to ostracise member nations on racial, economic or political matters, so when an Ethiopian delegation pushed for South Africa to be banned during the 1964 Olympics, it came as no surprise when Rous threw out the proposal.

The CAF were also becoming irritated by the fact that none of its countries were being given automatic places in the World Cup Finals, unlike their European and South American counterparts. African teams, and those from Asia were having to qualify via play-offs which would generally see them eliminated from the competition. The CAF felt this was unfair and wanted to see their continent represented along with the others taking part. Strangely, the 1958 and 1962 World Cups featured no African or Asian teams at all, and though North Korea were to represent the latter in 1966, Africa would remain unrepresented until 1970.

Though Stanley Rous was no doubt delighted to see England win the 1966 World Cup, the bigger picture told a tale of an ever more divided FIFA. The African countries were not happy with the way they were being treated by Rous and the South Americans were keen to see a representative of their own taking his position. Despite very well organised World Cups in England and Mexico, Rous' days were starting to look numbered as new member nations arrived, looking for a figurehead to advocate their interests.

Seizing his opportunity to take advantage of the situation was João Havelange, former President of the Brazilian Sports Confederation. He saw an opening to depose Stanley Rous by gaining the support of the South American and African countries along with many smaller nations that felt their importance was being overlooked.

When FIFA's 1974 Presidential Election was held, Havelange knew just what to do to install himself as their new leader, and it would bring an end to Stanley Rous' controversial thirteen year spell in charge, much to the contentment of many.

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