Alexa

Platini defeats incumbent Johansson to become UEFA chief

Platini defeats incumbent Johansson to become UEFA chief

As a player, Michel Platini had a gift for weaving through defenses to score superb goals. Now, he'll have to navigate through political obstacles to get his way as head of European soccer's governing body.
The former France captain and Juventus star was elected president of UEFA for the next four years on Friday, defeating longtime incumbent Lennart Johansson. The 77-year-old Swede had held the post since 1990.
The 51-year-old Platini won by 27-23, with two invalid votes, in a secret ballot of UEFA's 52 federations to take control of the most influential of soccer's regional bodies.
"This is a great victory for me but I'm not going to do a lap of honor because now the work starts," he said.
Platini promised to move quickly on the issue that had been the centerpiece of his campaign _ to limit the number of clubs one country can send to the lucrative Champions League to three. England, Italy and Spain now send four clubs each to the elite competition.
The new format could be in place for the 2009-10 season, Platini said. The proposal will go to UEFA's executive committee in April.
"We have a few months still to see which way we will go, but I would like a better equilibrium," Platini said at a news conference after the vote. "It is very close to my heart."
Platini was Europe's only three-time player of the year (1983-1985), captained France to the European Championship title in 1984 and twice led the national team to the World Cup semifinals. He helped organize the 1998 World Cup in France and has worked closely with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who publicly endorsed him on the eve of the vote.
Blatter welcomed Platini's election and said he hoped for better relations with UEFA.
"In the past eight, nine years since I've been president, UEFA had a certain tendency toward independence because it is strong, it has the best players, the best clubs and wanted to lean away somewhat from FIFA," Blatter said. "Under the new president, as he said, that family will remain united."
Platini said he doubted Blatter's endorsement had made the difference.
"His intervention may have won me votes but I am sure it also made me lose votes," he said. "We have known each other long. What is he going to say, that I am an enemy?"
Johansson and Platini embraced after the vote and Platini asked the congress to elect the Swede as honorary president. The motion was approved by acclamation.
"Lennart, this is for you," Platini said. "I will need you. We have to be all together."
Before the vote, Johansson addressed the congress and criticized Blatter for taking sides.
"It's not the FIFA president, it is you the congress to take the decision. You should never change a winning team and I think I have been the coach of a winning team," he said.
Johansson, under whose guidance UEFA became rich and who was known as "the father" of the rich Champions League, its flagship event, was graceful in defeat.
"I will obviously have even more time to watch football live and on television," he said. "As long as I am alive, I will remain as fanatical about football as I am today."
Platini had traveled widely to canvass support and was believed to have received the backing of smaller nations.
"We must always see to it that the strong help the weaker ones," he told the delegates in his address before the vote. "Let's defend the national associations against the interests which are threatening them. It is a game before a product, a sport before a market, a show before a business."
Germany, one of UEFA's biggest members, backed Johansson, who had supported Germany's bid to stage last year's World Cup.
Theo Zwanziger, German federation president, said he was "sad that such a deserving man was voted out."
"We wish Platini good luck. We appreciate Platini as a man and a great player. Many have great expectations of him and I am curious if he can fulfill them."
In other decisions, the UEFA congress:
_ Accepted Scotland's proposal to start an immediate feasibility study whether to expand the European Championship from 16 to 24 teams, possibly as early as 2012;
_ Elected Franz Beckenbauer of Germany to the FIFA executive committee and Angel Maria Villar Llona of Spain as a FIFA vice president.
_ Rejected Gibraltar's application for membership.
_ Accepted Montenegro as new 53rd member.


Updated : 2021-03-06 23:47 GMT+08:00