By Brian Bariyo Tumuramye
Lennart Johansson, who oversaw the introduction of the Champions League during a 17-year reign as president of European football’s governing body, has died. He was 89 years old. The Swedish Football Association said the former UEFA president died on Tuesday after a short illness.
“Lennart Johansson was our biggest international football leader of all time, no Swedish has had a similar influence on football in the world,” the Swedish FA’s president, Karl-Erik Nilsson, said on Wednesday. “He was deeply respected as UEFA president and vice president of FIFA, his leadership has aroused admiration worldwide.” Johansson was elected to lead UEFA from 1990 to 2007 when he was beaten in the presidential election by Michel Platini. Johansson also served as vice president of FIFA but lost a divisive contest for the presidency to Sepp Blatter in 1998. Blatter rejected allegations of vote-buying, and the two never saw eye to eye after that. Johansson said creating the Champions League to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at UEFA. It evolved into club football’s most lucrative and prestigious competition, with expansion that saw non-domestic champions given the entry.
He started as a leader in the sport of bandy in Sweden for his hometown team AIK. Johansson then came through the ranks in the Swedish Football Association, and served as the association’s president between 1984 and 1991. Johansson is probably most famous for starting the UEFA Champions League and for bringing the 1992 UEFA European Football Championship to his native Sweden. Johansson was named Honorary UEFA President by his successor Micheal Platini at the Düsseldorf Congress in January 2007. In October 2007, he was appointed chairman of a committee for bringing bandy into the Olympic programme