March 22, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -- Former FIFA president Joao Havelange, in hospital since Sunday with septic arthritis, has shown a slight improvement in his condition, a hospital statement said on Thursday.

"At the moment, he is breathing without the aid of apparatus," said the Samaritano hospital in a statement.

"His condition has shown a slight improvement but still inspires care."

The 95-year-old, who headed the world soccer governing body for 24 years, has a bacterial infection in his right ankle.

Havelange, a former Olympic swimmer, was FIFA president from 1974 to 1998 when he was replaced by Sepp Blatter, the present incumbent.

He was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member until December when he quit his position days before an ethics hearing into his conduct during his FIFA presidency.

He was under an IOC investigation for his links to FIFA's former marketing agency International Sport and Leisure which went bankrupt in 2001 with debts of around $300 million.

A BBC Panorama television programme alleged in 2010 that Havelange had accepted money from ISL for granting lucrative World Cup contracts.

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