RIP Johan Cruyff
Aged 7, the 1974 World Cup appeared in my life like a thunderbolt. My head already turned by the 1973 FA Cup Final when Bob Stokoe ran across Wembley’s perfect turf and the year after when Keegan and Heighway defeated Newcastle. I sat for an entire month watching pictures on our little telly from West Germany. I was enthralled.
The orange-shirted Haan, Neeskens, Krol, Jansen, Rensenbrink, Rep, the Van Der Kerkhof brothers and my idol Johan Cruyff were responsible for my falling in love with Charlton. It wasn’t as complicated as it sounds. For a whole year after the 1974 World Cup I nagged my Dad to take me to football, to see close up this game that had captivated me. Total football, the Cruyff Turn, the Arie Haan thunderbolt. My Dad finally caved and took me to the only ground that he was ever going to take me to, The Valley. The rest as they say, is history.
I dedicated my 10-year Blogging anniversary the Dutch no.14 and without any help I can recite that ’74 Dutch team without even thinking. I cried my little eyes out when The Kaiser lifted the trophy in Munich. Today, I felt like crying again when a news flash came up on my email that Johan Cruyff had lost his battle to lung cancer aged just 68.
Johan Cryuff was a magician, a trailblazer, a pioneer and he transformed the way football was played. The Dutchman helped take the game of football into a different era. He didn’t just do that once. He did it as a player, a coach and as a manager. A leader, both headstrong and honourable. I have everything to thank him for because he alone, well along with my Dad, are the sole reason why I fell in love with the beautiful game.
As generations move on, there are constant comparisons to football’s greats. The next Maradona, Zidane, Pele, Best. Undoubtedly there will be the next Messi and Ronaldo. But there will never be another Johan Cruyff. RIP.