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Champions League Founder dies at 89


Chukwuma Ijeoma

Lennart Johansson, the influential former Uefa president who launched the Champions League, has died at the age of 89.

Johansson also served as vice president of Fifa, but lost a divisive contest for the presidency to Sepp Blatter in 1998. Blatter, who was supported by the FA, rejected allegations of vote-buying, and the two never saw eye-to-eye after that.

Johansson said creating the money-spinning Champions League in the early 1990s to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at Uefa.

Sweden’s football association said Johansson died after a short illness. “Lennart Johansson was our biggest international football leader of all time, no Swedish person has had a similar influence on football in the world,” Swedish FA president Karl-Erik Nilsson said.

Johansson was elected to lead Uefa from 1990 to 2007 when he was beaten in the presidential election by former France great Michel Platini.

His death came as Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president who gained his football governance experience working under Johansson, was re-elected at the world governing body’s congress in Paris.
“I am heartbroken by the news of the passing away of Lennart Johansson,” Infantino said in a separate statement on Wednesday ahead of his re-election as FIFA president. “He was a friend and an invaluable source of wisdom and inspiration.
“I will be forever grateful for having had him as the president of Uefa when I joined the organisation in 2000. Since then, Lennart has always been a role model of professionalism and, more importantly, of humanity.”

Uefa was transformed under Johansson’s rule, from an administrative body into a commercial enterprise managing Europe’s top club and national team competitions. Its headquarters moved from a suburb of the Swiss capital, Bern, to a waterfront facility in Nyon, by Lake Geneva. Johansson was named honorary president of Uefa after losing the presidency to Platini in 2007.

Clarke said: “On behalf of The Football Association, I would like to send our condolences to his family and loved ones. Lennart played an influential part in the success of European football and will be remembered fondly.”

Born in Stockholm, Johansson rose through the ranks of the Swedish Football Association and served as its president before becoming Uefa president in 1990. He brought the European Championship to Sweden in 1992, and the Swedish league trophy was named after him in 2001.

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