The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and the football world is in mourning today after it was announced that Charles J. Dempsey CBE passed away late last night after battling a short illness at the age of 87.
Dempsey, the patriarch of Oceania football, served the confederation for 36 years, in which time he was OFC President from 1992 until 2000. During his years he oversaw the body’s rise to full confederation status from FIFA and was responsible for raising national association membership of the OFC from four to eleven.
He was also one of New Zealand soccer’s longest serving administrators. He was a New Zealand Football Association national councillor for 23 years and chairman from 1982 to 1987.
Tributes have been pouring in for Dempsey from all over the world and OFC President Reynald Temarii expressed his sadness upon hearing of the death of the former OFC President.
Temarii praised Dempsey for his tireless work throughout Oceania and his commitment to his vision.
Dempsey with the OFC O-League Trophy at the Grand final between Waitakere United and Kossa FC in May, 2008. Photograph: Grant Stantiall
"The Oceania Football Confederation and FIFA owe Charles a debt of gratitude for his complete devotion, extraordinary loyalty and unwavering service to the sport of football.
“His perseverance, charm and drive will be missed by all the lives he touches and my deepest sympathies are with his family and friends.”
Dempsey’s exceptional work was recognised when he was awarded the Pacific Gold Star in 2000, nominated as an Oceania Football Confederation Honorary President in 2001, and presented with a FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004 for his long and outstanding contribution to football in the region.
OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas expressed his condolences to Dempsey’s family and mourned the loss of both a mentor and a friend.
“Charles was an inspiration to all of us. His loss will be very heavily felt throughout Oceania and the world where he did so much for the game. My thoughts are with his family.”
After serving in the Royal Navy in World War II, Dempsey moved to New Zealand. He formed a successful construction firm which built the house high above Tamaki estuary where he and Annie have lived since 1959.
In 1982, he accompanied New Zealand’s All Whites to the World Cup in Spain as head of the New Zealand Football Association.
"My backside may be here in first class, but my heart is with the team back there in economy," was his famous quote.
Dempsey, was a keen golfer, always taking his clubs with him on his world travels and a keen Guinness drinker, who attended 10 World Cups.
Dempsey’s family heavily involved in the game. His daughters Josephine King and Alice Banks both worked for OFC, while his granddaughter Anne King, worked at Uefa in Switzerland.
Dempsey and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter
Dempsey (Bottom Left) with FIFA Colleagues
Dempsey with Sir Bobby Charlton
Dempsey and Joao Havelange
Dempsey at 1999 World Youth Championships