March 24, 2016 Leave a comment
Almost forty-two years ago, in my first minute of ever watching live football on television, a thin, lose limbed footballer, charged through the West German defence in the first moments of the World Cup Final 1974. Uli Hoeness brought him down at the edge of the penalty area. That Neeskens stepped forward to score the resultant penalty, is at the moment just by the way. The tragedy is that the lose limbed magician, who made the penalty is today gone from among us. History will remember Johan Cruyff as one of the greats of all time and within the period immediately after Pele, the greatest footballer of that era.
The Ajax team of the early seventies were to dominate football for a few years, much as Barcelona has in recent years. Out of them came the style of Total Football, where positions were freely exchanged, quick passing and movement bringing new facets to football. That game was transferred into the style of the Holland team which came to the World Cup 1974, with Rinus Michels as coach. It included at least six of Ajax members and names like Neeskens, Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep were household names. But above all came the name of Johan Cruyff, Ballon d’Or for three years, and in that period the greatest player in the world.
Facing them in the 1974 Final was a West German side, likewise represented mainly by Bayern Munich players. Bayern were the new rising power in football and were to dominate the European Cup for the next few years. The German style of play was structured, methodical and set traditional football in direct conflict with total football. On the day, despite the very early lead for Holland, the Germans came out victorious, by a sheer never say die attitude. The famous hitman Gerd Muller getting the winner. Sadly, while Holland were to go onto another World Cup Final loss to Argentina in 1978, Cruyff was never again to grace this world stage.
Nevertheless, Cruyff’s legacy carried forth through his transfer to Barcelona, who were to win a few titles with him in the mid 70’s. Later, his playing days over, the vision and wisdom came forth as the Manager/Coach of Ajax in the 80’s and Barcelona in the 90’s. Both clubs were to win several titles under him. His legacy is further seen in the same total football philosophy which is carried forward by both clubs and by several others even today. Total football has been absorbed into normal football.
Football today has the stamp of Cruyff’s game in every facet. He was also honoured with the iconic award of European Footballer of the 20th century, in 1999. Today is a sad day. Literally, the imagery (those first few moments of live football) which has driven my passion for football has been removed from this earth. It will now abide on Youtube and other such archives. Many of us will miss the magic of Cruyff.