Lennart Johansson, Leader in European Soccer, Is Dead at 89

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Lennart Johansson, who oversaw the introduction of the Champions League during a 17-year reign as president of European soccer’s governing body, died on Tuesday. He was 89.

The Swedish soccer association announced the death but did not say where he died.

Mr. Johansson was president the Union of European Football Associations from 1990 to 2007. He was named honorary president after losing to the French former star player Michel Platini.

He also served as vice president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, but lost a divisive contest for the presidency to Sepp Blatter in 1998.

Mr. Johansson said his proudest creation at UEFA was creating the Champions League to replace the European Cup. It evolved into club soccer’s most lucrative and prestigious competition.

“It’s the biggest tournament we have in football for clubs, watched all over the world,” Mr. Johansson said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. “We send it to about 200 countries, and if you listen to the players about their wish for the future, it’s ‘I would love to be in the final of the Champions League.’ ”

The current FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, worked under Mr. Johansson at UEFA.

Under Mr. Johansson, UEFA was transformed from an administrative body into a commercial enterprise managing Europe’s top club and national team competitions.

He told The A.P. that he opposed the growing use of technology in soccer to help referees “This is a game for humans and not for robots,” he said.

Nils Lennart Johansson was born in Stockholm on Nov. 5, 1929. He was chairman of the city’s biggest soccer club, AIK, from 1967 to 1980. He rose through the ranks of the Swedish soccer association and served as its president before becoming UEFA president in 1990.

He brought the European Championship to Sweden in 1992. The Swedish league trophy was named after him in 2001.


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