As an International Olympic Committee member, he also was integral to Rio de Janeiro winning its bid for the Olympic Games in 2009 and famously invited other IOC members to his 100th birthday party on Copacabana Beach if Rio hosted the 2016 Games.
Havelange served 24 years as FIFA president, and by the time the Brazilian stepped down in 1998, FIFA had expanded the World Cup from 16 teams to 32, bolstered its personnel from 12 staff members in its Zurich, Switzerland, headquarters to more than 120 and increased the number of national soccer federations from 142 to 204.
The introduction of the FIFA Confederations Cup, and the Under-17, Under-20 and the women's World Cups also came under his watch.
Arguably, his greatest achievement, according to his FIFA bio
, was in expanding the involvement of teams in Asia, Africa, Oceania, the Caribbean and North and Central America. Before 1974, those regions boasted only three World Cup finalists.
"When Havelange was elected in '74, there was no money," onetime FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne said in 2015
"It was a Eurocentric organization who tried to find compromise on apartheid. Then someone from outside Europe comes in, wants to recognize the football association of the People's Republic of China and to expel the South African FA because of apartheid."
But for all his accomplishments, his substantial legacy was tainted in 2012 when a Swiss court found Havelange and Brazilian sports chief Ricardo Teixeira took bribes
from International Sports and Leisure, a marketing partner of FIFA and the IOC that went bankrupt in 2001.
At the time of the bribes, International Sports and Leisure owned the television rights to the World Cup.
The revelation that the pair had accepted bribes was the first domino to fall in the corruption scandal that continues to dog FIFA today.
Havelange was found to have accepted at least 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.53 million at the time), while Teixeira, his onetime son-in-law, was paid at least 12.4 million Swiss francs (then $12.64 million) between 1992 and 2000, according to Switzerland's supreme court.
Sepp Blatter, the general-secretary of world soccer's governing body who would go on to succeed Havelange at FIFA's helm, said at the time he was aware of the payments but didn't realize they were illegal.
Blatter, whom Havelange hired in 1975 to sign marketing contracts and create development projects, was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the Havelange-Teixeira matter and promised to steer FIFA away from "troubled waters," appointing U.S. Attorney Michael J Garcia and German Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert to investigate FIFA corruption.
Other FIFA officials, including Blatter, would go down amid a cloud of corruption allegations in the following years. Blatter resigned last year, while he and his heir apparent at the time, Union of European Football Associations President Michel Platini, were handed eight-year bans from all football-related activities. The bans were cut to six years
earlier this year.
Havelange, who had stayed on as FIFA's honorary president, gave up his ceremonial title in 2013
after a report from Eckert, FIFA's ethics chairman, concluded that he had indeed taken bribes.
Ahead of the Swiss court's findings, Havelange had also stepped down as the IOC's longest-serving member
in 2011. He had served in that role since 1963.
An Olympic stadium in Rio, primarily used by the Botafogo football club, goes by many monikers,
them being João Havelange Olympic Stadium.
It closed indefinitely ahead of the 2014 World Cup after engineers discovered structural flaws
, but it reopened in time for the Rio Games.
Before ascending to sport's highest international bodies, Havelange became a member of the Brazilian National Olympic Committee in 1955. He also was president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation, now known as the Brazilian Football Confederation, from 1958 to 1973, a span that saw the Brazilians win three World Cup trophies.
A businessman who earned a law degree while attending boarding school in France, Havelange in his youth was an Olympic swimmer, competing in the 1936 Berlin Games, and a water polo player, joining Brazil's team in the 1952 Helsinki Games.