Former UEFA boss: game is for `humans, not robots'
Former UEFA President Lennart Johansson believes goalline technology has no place in football, saying the game is for ''humans and not for robots.''
In an interview with The Associated Press, Johansson also backed England's bid for the 2018 World Cup, criticized the standard of play at this year's World Cup and said Wayne Rooney had failed as a role model by becoming caught up in a sex scandal.
The 80-year-old Swede, who held European football's top job for 17 years, also had strong words about FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Johansson said his successor as UEFA President, Michel Platini, had made the right decision by rejecting calls for the introduction of technology to determine whether the ball crossed the goalline. Platini has chosen instead to experiment with two extra officials behind each goal in this season's Champions League matches.
''I believe in the idea that Platini put forward when he said we could have two extra men on the field,'' Johansson said. ''Perhaps two referees, but then one behind each goal standing there watching, who could see immediately when the ball is inside the line or not.''
Johansson said that human error is an inevitable part of football, and should be viewed with less fuss and more perspective.
''I face facts that referees are human and humans make mistakes,'' he said. ''This is a game for humans and not for robots.''
Johansson said he would have encouraged UEFA's executive committee to back England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup if he still held the presidency.
''It's time now for England, they haven't had it since 1966,'' he said. ''They can for sure arrange it, they know how to do it. It would make sense if you look at the sequence of World Cups.''
Also in the 2018 race are the United States, Russia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. FIFA will select the winner in December.
Johansson said that the United States would be a good venue for the 2022 World Cup, but would have to reduce traveling times and distances between match venues compared to when it hosted the tournament in 1994.
In his office at Sweden's national stadium in Stockholm, Johansson has an award inscribed: ''To Lennart Johansson, the father of the Champions League.''
He said that founding club football's most prestigious competition is his proudest achievement and perhaps his greatest legacy.
''It was me and the general secretary of UEFA who started the Champions League with the help of two gentlemen who formed the marketing side of it,'' Johansson said.
He said that the standard of play in matches between Europe's top club teams is higher than at the World Cup, but he was still surprised by the lack of quality on show at the recent World Cup in South Africa.
''It was nothing that you will remember,'' Johansson said. ''The tempo, the technique and the scoring was not what I expected.''
Johansson was still UEFA president when South Africa was awarded the continent's first World Cup. He said that he backed its bid early on after his fears about organization and security were allayed.
Blatter has praised South Africa's hosting of the tournament, but Johansson said Blatter wasn't always so supportive of taking the World Cup to Africa.
''The one who was against Africa at the time was Sepp Blatter. He was strongly against it,'' said Johansson, before adding that Blatter only changed his mind ''because of this award he was given by the United Nations, not because he liked the idea to go to Africa.''
It's no secret that the two haven't always seen eye to eye. Blatter beat Johansson to the FIFA presidency in 1998, in a controversial election marred by allegations of vote-buying. Blatter has rejected the accusations.
Johansson's UEFA reign ended when Platini won the majority of the vote in 2007. He said he thinks that his successor is doing a good job, but he must be careful to not be influenced by Blatter.
''Blatter has a tendency to tell people how to behave and what they should think and what they should do, and I think that the fact that Platini admires Blatter so much, it brings him to make the same mistakes,'' Johansson said.
''I think he (Platini) should allow more discussions in the executive committee. They always accept what he proposes. That will mean that he's never wrong,'' added Johansson.
Following newspaper allegations that Rooney cheated repeatedly on his pregnant wife with a prostitute, Johansson said the England and Manchester United forward and other highly-paid stars are failing to set a good example to the youngsters who idolize them.
''He's behaving as too many of the big stars are. Not ideal examples for the young that I want them to be,'' Johansson said. ''I want them to be polite, friendly, take care of children and not criticize each other, and respect the laws of the game.''