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Sunday, March 22, 1998 Published at 06:30 GMT

Sport: Football

Uefa chief backs Germany
image: [ Tony Blair and Joao Havelange discussed the England bid at 10 Downing Street ]
Tony Blair and Joao Havelange discussed the England bid at 10 Downing Street

The President of Uefa, Lennart Johansson, has said he will support Germany - not England - to become the host of the 2006 World Cup.

In an interview published on Sunday in a German magazine, he recalled the "agreement" said to have been reached between the two countries over the division of major football tournaments.

[ image: Lennart: scathing about his Fifa counterpart]
Lennart: scathing about his Fifa counterpart
"If it comes to a vote, then I will stick with the gentleman's agreement that we reached in the UEFA Cup executive committee - that England was to receive the 1996 European Championships and that we would support Germany for the 2006 World Cup," Johansson said.

"The dumbest thing about breaking the agreement is that we're faced with an expensive competition. We would be better off spending the money on real soccer."

Johansson went on to criticise his counterpart at soccer's world governing body, Fifa. He complained about Joao Havelange's financial decisions and "undemocratic behaviour."

Earlier this month, Mr Havelange met the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and said he favoured England's bid for the 2006 World Cup.

There were also harsh words for Fifa General Secretary Sepp Blatter.

[ image: Blatter: resignation demand]
Blatter: resignation demand
The dispute at the top of international soccer began in mid-March when Johansson's allies at a Fifa executive committee meeting in Zurich demanded that Blatter resign his post if he planned also to run for the presidency of Fifa.

Havelange, an 81-year-old Brazilian who plans to retire this summer after 24 years in control, rejected the demand and ended the meeting before a vote could be taken.

"I regard that as unacceptable behavior. That has to have consequences," said Johansson, a 68-year-old Swedish businessman publicly backed by the European and African soccer organizations for the Fifa presidency.

"That's exactly the situation in the Fifa executive committee that I want to change. That was a defeat for democracy," he added.

Blatter, who enjoys Havelange's support, has said he would announce by the end of March whether he would be a candidate. The deadline for nominations is April 7 and any election would be held June 8.

Johansson also said in Der Spiegel he plans to have an independent accountant examine FIFA's business practices under Havelange.

"If it's necessary to shed light on the background of certain business deals, that reach into the future, then I'll do that. I can't understand, for economic reasons, why the World Cup tournaments 2002 and 2006 were sold as a package."

Johansson added that if was successful in his bid to gain the FIFA presidency he would retain Blatter as general secretary only under specific conditions.

"If he should stay, then his job as secretary is to serve and not act as a politician. He will have clear instructions and he will be expected to put those in action."


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