Magazine

Lennart Johansson


Maybe it's going a little too far to call Lennart Johansson a crusader, but no one has pushed harder to reform the scandal-ridden world of international football. Johansson, a 72-year-old Swede, is president of the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, the group that oversees European football. But he is better known as the vice-president of Federation Internationale de Football Assn., or FIFA, the umbrella organization for World Cup football.

There, Johansson has led efforts to reform an organization critics say is corrupt and on the brink of financial disaster. More than any other member of FIFA'S executive committee, he has been willing to confront FIFA President Joseph Blatter, whose own general secretary accuses him of bribery and financial mismanagement. (Blatter denies the accusations.) In the FIFA presidential election on May 28, Johansson supported Issa Hayatou of Cameroon over Blatter.

Blatter won reelection, but Johannson vows to battle on. "The reputation of FIFA must be restored," he says. He has done too much to promote the sport he loves to back down now. He is chairman of the organizing committee for World Cup 2002 and built up Europe's popular Champions League. Yet Johansson is known as low-key. "He talks to Presidents the same way he talks to other people," says Per Ravn Omdal, head of the Norwegian Football Assn.

Johansson used to say he wanted to retire and spend more time fishing. But in May he was reelected to another term as president of UEFA, which automatically makes him a member of FIFA's executive committee. For at least the next four years, count on him to keep struggling against football's worst tendencies.


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