Lennart Johansson
Lennart Johansson Image Credit: Reuters

Stockholm: 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.

Sweden’s 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,” Swedish Football Association 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 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.

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.

Johansson had an award inscribed: “To Lennart Johansson, the father of the Champions League” in an office he kept at Sweden’s national stadium in Stockholm.

“It’s the biggest tournament we have in football for clubs, watched all over the world. 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,’” he said in a 2010 interview.