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‘Only the best is good enough:’ The Johan Cruyff Legacy

‘Only the best is good enough:’ The Johan Cruyff Legacy

Only the best is good enough,” Johan Cruyff wrote in his weekly column in “De Telegraaf” at the end of last year, when he had no idea death was going to ambush…

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The man who inspired generations of soccer players, and transformed the game with his genius, grows larger than life after his recent death. This man, who made “The Clockwork Orange” Dutch team tick, tick, and tick, fascinated me when I was just a kid watching his dazzling 1974 World Cup performance on in black-and-white TV set.

 

 

Only the best is good enough,” Johan Cruyff wrote in his weekly column in “De Telegraaf” at the end of last year, when he had no idea death was hiding around the next corner and was going to ambush him, as it did this past week in Barcelona, Spain.

He passed away from lung cancer, at the age of 68, on March 24.

“I am looking forward to the new year in which I will aim for the highest,” he wrote just in December..“That is what I did as a player, as a coach and when I am writing my column.”

“I am looking forward to the new year in which I will aim for the highest,” he wrote just in December..“That is what I did as a player, as a coach and when I am writing my column.”

Life is that provisional… Although he knew cancer, the result of his deadly smoking habit, was eating away his lungs, that spirit which made him the best soccer player in the world was almost intact, still aiming “for the highest,” although he was already horizontal in a hospital bed.

His spirit defied his mortality.

He once compared his battle against that encroaching death as yet another soccer game.

“It is 2 to 0 so far. But  I’m confident that at the end I am going  to win…” He is remembered now as a “soccer philosopher,” “a Pythagoras in boots”,  in The Economist’s obituary.

Forty years ago, he was hailed as “El Salvador” (the Savior), when he came to Barcelona Fútbol Club in the 1970s to transform the Spanish soccer team from an average team into the world-wide soccer brand it is today.

He was, also in 1974, that tall, elegant, agile and young captain of Holland’s National Team, who under his leadership came to  be known as the “Clockwork Orange

He was, also in 1974, that tall, elegant, agile and young captain of Holland’s National Team, commanding the field, almost invisible among the other equally intrepid 10 team members, who under his leadership came to  be known as the “Clockwork Orange” (La Naranja Mecánica, we called it in Latin America).

In Germany’s World Cup of 1974, the team played a fascinating game no one had ever seen before that took them undefeated all the way the final game with host team Germany. "We lost (2 to 1) —Johan Cruyff reflected years later—  but we are the ones the world remembers."

That was the first time, 42 years ago, the world saw  “El Fútbol Total,” courtesy of Cruyff and his Team, dressed in a feisty orange uniform all of us remember. Forget the cold-blooded Germans, which won final game by the minimum difference with less artistry and plenty of good luck.

The thing with the 11 players in the Cruyff's team was that they played all the positions whenever necessary, as the circumstances of the game demanded —  not waiting for instructions from coach or captains, always willing all to play defense, when they were under attack by the rival team and the unspoken order was to run to the back and defend…

...Or they all played offense, when the odds shifted and they were all in even more urgent mode, attacking with equal zest (with the captain leading by example), from the back, to the middle, on to the front, up to the moment when the climatic goal could be scored by any of them, in an instant, followed by an epic, full-throated scream from the whole tribe.

These were the first premier danseurs of this athletic dance  — half force and half elegance — called “great soccer,” Lionel Messi is simply a disciple today in Barcelona FC, model 2016.

“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple..."

“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple,” Cruyff used to say.

No one in the AL DIA News Team ever meet him, but now it feels as though we all did.

Adiós, Johan.

RIP, Maestro.
 

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