Africa: A Closer Look At FIFA Presidents Past and Present

Giovanni Vincenzo “Gianni” Infantino, born March 23, 1970, a Swiss football administrator and the current President of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of association football, beach soccer, and futsal, will preside over the 73rd FIFA Congress to be held in Kigali, on March 16.

The FIFA Congress, the supreme legislative body of FIFA will be attended by about 2,000 delegates from 211-member associations and other football stakeholders.

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It is during the congress that the FIFA presidential elections will take place. Infantino is likely to be re-elected after he was earlier confirmed as the sole candidate for the position.

The son of Italian immigrant parents from Calabria and Lombardy in Switzerland who owns the citizenship of both countries was first elected to the office during the 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress in February 2016, and was re-elected in June 2019.

In January 2020, he was also elected a member of the International Olympic Committee.

The 52-year old lawyer who is fluent in Italian, Spanish, French, and German, and also speaks English, Portuguese, and Arabic, is unopposed in his quest for a third term.

He is the ninth elected FIFA president since its founding in 1904.

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The position has been dominated by Europeans, save for Brazil’s Joao Havelange who led the institution from 1978 to 1998.

The list of former FIFA presidents includes some names that held the office on “acting” basis including Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou – October 2015 to February 2016 – after Sepp Blatter was impeached due to allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement.

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Here, we present a list of the nine presidents that have led FIFA since its inception:

1. Robert Guérin (France), 1904 – 1906

At just 28 years of age, French journalist Robert Guerin was the first FIFA president and one of its founders in 1904.

Born in Reims, he was a journalist with Le Matin newspaper, but doubled as secretary of the football department of the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies. He brought together representatives of the first member countries in Paris for the signing of FIFA’s foundation act and agreement of the first FIFA statutes.

2. Daniel Burley Woolfall (England), 1906 – 1918

Englishman Daniel Burley Woolfall succeeded the founding father Robert Guérin as FIFA President in 1906

An English Football Association administrator, Woolfall was elected as president in June 1906, and one of the aims during his presidency was to achieve uniform football rules on an international level. He played a prominent role in the drafting of FIFA’s new constitution, and under his presidency, the application of the Laws of the Game, established under the English model, became compulsory and a clear definition was made of international matches.

His tenure as president brought the arrival of FIFA’s first non-European members: South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the United States but was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.

Woolfall’s presidency ended with his death in October 1918.

3. Jules Rimet (France), 1921 – 1954

In 1921, another Frenchman Jules Rimet took the FIFA president’s office, and stayed in it until 1954, becoming the longest serving FIFA president. Before he took office, Dutchman Cornelis Hirschman held it on an acting basis after the death of Daniel Burley.

He had previously served as the president of the French Football Federation from 1919 to 1942. During his tenure, the first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930.

4. Rodolphe Seeldrayers (Belgium), 1954 – 1955

Belgian journalist Rodolphe Seeldrayers was elected FIFA president in 1954 and held the office for a year and 104 days.

He was one the founders of the Royal Belgian Union of the Football Association Societies. He also worked as a sports journalist with the magazine “La vie sportive” where he was a columnist.

Under his presidency of FIFA, he faced problems like the effects of the second world war which took place from 1939 to 1945. Seeldrayers died a year after his election as president of FIFA in October in 1955, due to illness.

5. Arthur Drewry (England), 1956 – 1961

English football administrator Arthur Drewry served as the fifth president of FIFA from 1955 to 1961. He was also a military officer who served during the first world war.

During his tenure, Drewry, the 1958 FIFA World Cup took place. He died in 1961 after being ill for about a year.

6. Sir Stanley Rous (England), 1961 – 1974