FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiSunday, April 3, 2016
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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JOHAN CRUIJF: ADIEU TO A LEGENDARY FOOTBALLER!

Johan Cruijf


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he news of the death of Johan Cruijf, on the 24th of March, 2016, came as a rude shock to me. One had expected a full recovery from his ailment; more especially considering the statement credited to him, in February, 2016, that he felt at that stage of his treatment, like a team that was leading the opponent, at half time 2-0, and was confident of winning the match. But death, as unpredictable as it could be, snatched this soccer legend, rather unexpectedly!

Johan Cruijf, is gone, but no doubt, his soccer footprints, would forever remain etched in our collective hearts and minds.

The soccer player Johan Cruijf, was at the peak of his game in the seventies. He played and enjoyed unmitigated success with Ajax FC of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and later on with FC Barcelona of Spain. He was a leading member of the Netherlands national soccer team: the "Oranje," that captivated all and sundry with their peculiar brand of attacking soccer, christened:" Total football," with which they shocked the soccer world at the 1974 soccer World cup competition. They played all the way to the final of the competition, losing narrowly to the then West Germany. The Dutch exhibited this peculiar brand of soccer, under the coaching tutelage of Rinus Michels, and of course with lots of impulse from the exceptionally highly talented, Johan Cruijf.

"Total football," is a brand of attacking soccer, that emphasises mobility on the part of all players on the field of play, for the entire duration of the game! This brand of soccer, made teams that exhibited it, very attractive to watch. Spectators, had full value for their hard earned money, watching their team attack in a very attractive manner, for the entire duration of a game!

When Johan Cruijf, retired from active soccer, and became coach, he introduced "total football," to the teams under his tutelage:Ajax FC and FC Barcelona. He made Ajax play very attractive soccer and with good results to the bargain. The same magic, was replicated in FC Barcelona, with equally astounding results!

At FC Barcelona, the "total football" concept, metamorphosed, to the present day," Tiki Taka" soccer, for which FC Barcelona is known! Johan Cruijf's imprint, as a soccer player, and as coach of FC Barcelona, is such that any coach who coaches FC Barcelona, even till this day, and who neglects "Tiki Taka" soccer, will almost certainly be shown the way out!

In the words of Coach Pep Guardiola:" Johan Cruijf, built the chapel, subsequent coaches, have merely renovated and refurbished it."

The Spanish national team, eventually, under impulse of Late Coach Luis Aragones, of blessed memory, caught the "Tiki Taka" bug; and consequently, got transformed from being known as "perennial underachievers," to being the" great achievers," of today's soccer: 2008 European champions; 2010 World champions and 2012 European champions!

Johan Cruijf ,was not only exceptionally talented, but revolutionised all the teams he was engaged in, both as player and coach, in ways never seen before! At Ajax, as a player, he influenced in great measure, the enormous successes gotten there. As coach of Ajax, he made the team, play attractive, offensive- oriented soccer: "Total football," with very impressive results!

When he joined the then moderate side: FC Barcelona, as a player; he also had the opportunity of joining the more successful Real Madrid FC, but apparently, his revolutionary instincts, made him go for the then less successful Barcelona; where apparently, he thought his footprints would be better noticeable and appreciated. Under his impulse as a player of FC Barcelona, the team won the Spanish league title, for the first time in fourteen years! As coach of FC Barcelona, he masterminded, four back to back "La Liga" titles, in four years; an absolute record! He also won as coach of FC Barcelona, the very first "Champions league" trophy in the club's history!

Partly through the numerous successes obtained by FC Barcelona, under his impulse as a player and coach, FC Barcelona, today, has been caterpulted to the same level as Real Madrid, as the most successful teams of Spain. Both teams are now in parity, in terms of success!

Apparently, as a mark of appreciation, for all that he did for the "Catalonians," through FC Barcelona, he won for himself, a cult status, in Catalonia, and even beyond; and was further rewarded with the honour of "Permanent coach," of " Catalonian" national team: an essentially ceremonial team!

Johan Cruijf, was also characterised by his: direct, thought - provoking, grammer sensitive and - savy, statements that often proved prophetic. For example, before the 2000 semi-final confrontation, between the Netherlands and Italy, in the Europen championship, he predicted that:" the Netherlands would never be defeated by Italy, but can only lose to Italy!" This proved to be prophetic, as the Netherlands, lost to the Italians, on penalty shoot out, after a nerve pulsating 120 minute soccer match, in which the Netherlands dominated from beginning till the end and even lost two penalty kicks, awarded them, in regulation time!

In conclusion, the achievements of Johan Cruijf as player and even as coach, may never be equalled for a long time to come. These achievements, undeniably, make him the best soccer player, ever to have come out of the Netherlands, and one of the best soccer players ever on this planet! May his soul rest in perfect peace, in God's bossom. Amen!

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