Another myth has gone. RIP Johan Cruijff.
The passing of Johan Cruijff put the world to a halt here in my city Barcelona. The importance of Cruijff for football, FC Barcelona and the Catalonian people, is enormous. Here in Barcelona people constantly compare Cruijff to God. I think that’s not right. I mean, he was good indeed, he was great, but he was no Cruijff.
I will tell you a true story. I have played golf with Cruijff a full day in 2010. There he told me about his interest in other sports. Hearing that I was from Italy, he started talking about volleyball. Italy had the best volleyball team in the world in the nineties, but Cruijff was a fan of the sport and of the Dutch team led by legendary coach Ari Selinger. He teamed up with Selinger and told him how to win against the Italians. He went even as far as suggesting to lose a match in the group phase of the 1992 Olympics here in Barcelona, so they would get the almighty Italians in the quarterfinals as opponents. In a thrilling match the Dutch indeed beat the Italians. Four years later, the Dutch team again beat the Italians, this time in the Olympic final in Atlanta. So you can say that Cruijff robbed Italy of two Olympic volleyball gold medals. Then I told him about my sport, bridge, and my team and ranking in the world, and about the upcoming World Championships. Cruijff – as an avid amateur card player – knew the sport and was very interested to hear about the promising Dutch team. He said – smiling -he would contact the coach and join the staff in the preparations for Veldhoven. “I will tell them how to beat Italy, just as in volleyball”, he said with a big smile, and we laughed out loud.
Funny as it was at the time, it crept into my head when I was playing in Veldhoven. The Dutch were so confident, smiling almost arrogantly as they walked around. When chatting with Sjoert, he casually said somewhere “but we have Cruijff”. That was a big mind blow. You know by now that I didn’t play at my best in the semi-finals. Not at all. It was a mind thing. Cruijff had robbed Italy again.
April 1st, 2016
Translated by Onno Eskes
Later: Ok, ok ….