Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Johan Cruyff: Dutch Legend Dies

Johan Cruyff in 1974 World Cup Final/ Bundesarchiv, Bild
Johan Cruyff, the Dutch football legend, died March 24, 2016, aged 68, after losing a battle with lung cancer. He had been diagnosed in October 2015 with this illness, even though he had given up heavy smoking in 1991 after a by-pass surgery. A great loss for the world of football, and obviously for Dutch football and cultural history, a history I have experienced from the days of the 1974 World Cup in West-Germany to Cruyff's days as a player and coach in Barcelona till recently when he was an advisor to Ajax and kept offering his opinions in his column in the Dutch daily De Telegraaf.

One of the best football players
Johan Cruyff was one of the best football players of the last 50 years, if not the best. He experienced his greatest successes when playing for Ajax in Amsterdam and for Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and also for the Dutch national team, when the Dutch reached the finals of the 1974 World Cup in and against Western-Germany........
It was in those years that he inspired the Dutch and the world with "total football," an influential style of football in which any player can take over the role of any other player in a team.  The result was a flowing playing style, which was both beautiful to watch and hard to play against.

One of the most innovative football coaches
Cruyff was one of the most innovative football coaches and managers, if not the most innovative. Being the longest-serving manager in Barcelona since the late 1980s, he laid the groundwork for a near endless reign of Barcelona in Spain and Europe, for the tiki taka style of fast movement and short passing, which style later on became synonymous with Spain when it won the World Cup twice in the last six years, and for the ascent of leading football coaches, such as Frank Rijkaard,  Pep Guardiola, and Ronald Koeman. In later years, Cruyff stayed also closely involved with Ajax, where he started his football career in his hometown Amsterdam. Even though he had tremendous influence on this club, his relationship with especially its club management always carried a degree of contentiousness, due to his independent and mercurial character.

One of most important ambassadors for the Netherlands
Cruyff was one of the most important "ambassadors" for Dutch football and for the Netherlands as a country, if not the most important in the last decades. Wherever I would travel around the world and would tell locals that I am from Holland, they usually responded with "oh, yes, the country of tulips, van Gogh and Johan Cruyff."

His influence and celebrity around the world is obvious from how the many leading international media responded to his death, such as:

L'Equipe: Cruyff, genie total

Johan Cruyff: Why does Netherlands great matter? (the BBC)

''Total Football' pioneer: Johan Cruyff remembered" (CNN)

Cruyff, La Fin du Legende (Le Figaro in France)

Muere Johan Cruyff (El Pais in Spain)

Adios, maestro (Maca in Spain)

Fußball-Legende Cruyff gestorben (Bild in Germany)

Cérebro da Laranja Mecânica, Cruyff morre aos 68 anos (Folha de Sao Paulo in Brazil)

Remembering Johan Cruyff, Total Football’s chief interpreter of space (The Economist)

'The genius who reinvented football' (The Daily Mirror in the UK)

Niet Ajax schiep Cruijff, maar Cruijff schiep Ajax (De Volkskrant in the Netherlands)

Cruyff overleden (De Telegraaf in the Netherlands)

Netherlands great Johan Cruyff dies at age of 68 after cancer battle (ESPN)

In The New York Times: Johan Cruyff, the High Priest of Dutch Soccer, Dies at 68, which included two very meaningful quotes. One from Cruyff himself about his football philosophy, which one could apply to many realms of life: "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring."

The other quote is from the former England striker, Gary Lineker, who played for Cruyff at Barcelona:

"Football has lost a man, who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history."

I agree, we lost a man who has done a tremendous lot for football, a legend in the Netherlands, Catalonia and around the world: Johan Cruyff will be dearly missed.

                                                               Johan Cruyff, the Legend

                                                      Johan Cruyff, the legend - mini documentary

                                                    Johan Cruijff - En Un Momento Dado
               (a 2004 documentary about Johan Cruyff, by Pieter van Huystee and Ramón Gieling - approx. 1 1/2 hrs.)

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