Johansson launches re-election campaign

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> UEFA president Lennart Johansson knows he can't compete with soccer great Michel Platini on the field.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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UEFA president Lennart Johansson knows he can't compete with soccer great Michel Platini on the field. However, when it comes to running European soccer, Johansson says that's another story. "It's one thing to play football on the pitch. It's another to look after the problems of 52 nations. You cannot just walk in from the outside," said Johansson. Launching his re-election campaign platform in London, the 76-year-old Swede said his 16 years of trying to bring stability to the game in soccer's most competitive and lucrative region should help him win a fourth four-year term. The election will be held January 27th in Duesseldorf, Germany. Platini, 51, is the charismatic three-time European player of the year who led France to the 1984 European Championship title and starred for Italian giant Juventus. Johansson, who has twice beaten cancer, turns 77 on Sunday. If re-elected, he will turn 80 in office. Experienced administrator Johansson has guided European soccer through many problems, from bribery and drug scandals to directives from the European Union over transfer regulations. He headed off a threat from the G14 group of powerhouse clubs to break away and form their own competition, and says he will lead the fight against racism and matchfixing and look after all clubs. "For me the principal of solidarity is crucial to the future of European football. We see so many signs that winner takes all." "If some of these (clubs) feel they are better than the others, this is one thing that as long as I'm around won't be recognized," said Johansson. Despite the health problems that affected him five years ago, Johansson said he is fit enough to continue. "I don't deny my age but, I'm like wine, it gets better year by year. I have been thoroughly investigated. I had cancer twice and nothing (of it) is left. I see many people who are 54 years old and I wonder how they can grow so old so quickly." "And I see others who remain fit. Look at (former FIFA president Joao) Havelange, he's 90 years old and he's absolutely crystal clear. Whether I like him or not, that's something else," he added. After Havelange quit the FIFA presidency at age 82, Johansson lost to Sepp Blatter in the 1998 election in Paris where Platini openly supported his opponent. Blatter's backing By a strange twist, Johansson says Blatter is supporting him against Platini although the FIFA president has not publicly said which candidate he favours. "He said that, what the world needs now, is for everyone to sit in their chairs and he urged me to stay for another term,'' Johansson said of Blatter, who also plans to stay on as FIFA president at age 70. Johansson said he was persuaded by others to run again. "It's not something I begged for. But nobody else stood up to have an alternative to my opponent. I had to do it. I have to protect what I and my colleagues have established over the years," he added. Johansson said he disagreed with Platini's proposal that leading European soccer nations, such as Italy, Spain, England and Germany, should have their Champions League quota cut from four clubs to three to give smaller nations more chances to win European soccer's most prestigious competition. "There are five big countries in Europe who give us the main income. It makes sense that they, who generate the resources, are represented in the way they are." "Without them, we would never have the possibility to give back so much to the development of grassroots football," said Johansson. (AP)