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Champions League architect Lennart Johansson dies at 89

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

The Swedish soccer association said the former UEFA president died 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," Swedish soccer association president Karl-Erik Nilsson said Wednesday. "He was deeply respected as UEFA president and vice president of FIFA, his leadership has aroused admiration worldwide."

Johansson led UEFA from 1990-2007 and was eventually beaten in a presidential election by former France great 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.

Current FIFA President Gianni Infantino gained his soccer governance experience working under Johansson at UEFA, rising to become general secretary.

A tribute was paid to Johansson at the opening of the FIFA Congress in Paris on Wednesday, with his photo appearing on a big screen.

"I am heartbroken by the news of the passing away of Lennart Johansson," Infantino said in a separate statement 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 organization in 2000. Since then, Lennart has always been a role model of professionalism and, more importantly, of humanity."

Johansson said creating the Champions League to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at UEFA. It evolved into club soccer's most lucrative and prestigious competition, with expansion that saw non-domestic champions given the entry.

06.05.2019
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