UEFA and the world of football are mourning the death at the age of 89 years of Lennart Johansson, the Swede who was UEFA President for 17 years, from 1990 to 2007.
During his term of office, the face of the European game changed completely, in sporting and commercial terms. UEFA itself developed from being a purely administrative body in a suburb of the Swiss federal capital Berne to a dynamic modern sport organisation based at the House of European Football in Nyon, on the banks of Lake Geneva in western Switzerland.
Lennart Johansson was born on November 5, 1929 in Bromma, a suburb of Stockholm. After gaining his initial administrative experience with AIK Solna – a club he always remained close to – Mr Johansson came through the ranks in the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), and served as the association’s president between 1984 and 1991.
Establishing a reputation as a strong, capable leader, Mr Johannson was elected as UEFA’s fifth President at UEFA’s Malta Congress in 1990.
While Lennart Johansson was at the helm, the UEFA Champions League was launched at the start of the 1990s and became the world’s most prestigious club competition – a blue-riband sporting event bringing together many of the best players on the planet, and followed by millions of football enthusiasts.
National-team football also flourished, with the UEFA European Football Championship final round growing into one of the most popular events on the world sporting calendar alongside the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, with the number of final tournament participants increasing from eight to 16 during his presidency.
Lennart Johansson was named Honorary UEFA President at the UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf in January 2007, and he continued to take a keen interest in the affairs of UEFA and European football, in particular by attending UEFA Executive Committee meetings.
His love for football was lifelong. “The game remains unpredictable,” he said. “Sometimes you cry and sometimes you’re happy. These are the things that make it such a great game, and I am so proud to have played a part in supporting the game’s success in Europe.
“I know that whatever decisions I’ve taken, whether people agree with them, I’ve taken for what I see as the good of football.”
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “UEFA and European football are deeply saddened by the passing of Lennart Johansson, and I would like to express my sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones, as well as to the Swedish Football Association, on their loss.
“He was a devoted lover and servant of football, who put his passion at the heart of his life. He will always be remembered as a visionary leader, and as the architect of the UEFA Champions League, and world football will always be grateful to him for all he has achieved for the beautiful game.”
As a matter of respect and to pay tribute to the great leader, a moment of silence will be observed at all UEFA Nations League, UEFA European Qualifiers and UEFA Under-21 matches taking place this week.