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Platini wins election as UEFA president

DUESSELDORF, Germany -- France soccer great Michel Platini was elected UEFA president Friday, defeating Swedish incumbent Lennart Johansson to become head of European soccer's governing body.

The 51-year-old Platini won 27-23, with two invalid votes, in a secret ballot of UEFA's 52 federations, ousting the 77-year-old Swede after 17 years at the helm of world soccer's biggest regional body.

"I took my time to prepare for the presidency. I am ready," Platini told UEFA's Congress.

Platini was a three-time European player of the year who led France to the European Championship title in 1984. 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.

"It is no surprise for me," Blatter said after the vote. "I am very happy I will be working with someone that has the same vision on soccer as I do."

Franz Beckenbauer was voted by acclamation into the FIFA Executive Committee. Beckenbauer was the head of the organizing committee of last year's World Cup in Germany. He won the World Cup in 1974 as captain of the German team and as coach in 1990.

Senes Erzik (Turkey), Angel Maria Villar Llona (Spain) and Joseph Mifsud (Malta) were re-elected to the UEFA executive committee, while Mircea Sandu (Romania), Gilberto Madail (Portugal) and Grigoriy Surkis (Ukraine) were voted on as new members.

Platini asked the congress to elect Johansson as honorary president. The Swede was approved by acclamation.

Also Friday, UEFA overwhelmingly rejected Gibraltar's application to become a full member of European soccer's governing body. Montenegro, which split from Serbia last year, instead became UEFA's 53rd nation.

In a highly charged political debate, Spain urged delegates to keep the tiny British colony at the southern edge of Spain out of UEFA.

Gibraltar has been a frequent source of tension between Britain and Spain, which claims sovereignty over the territory.