Johan Cruijff’s 14 lives

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Johan Cruijff was in the Netherlands—an event that never goes unnoticed. This time, the outspoken number 14 opened an exhibition about himself, undermined Ajax’s self-confidence with his tough criticism — and had a planetoid named after him. Everything you always wanted to know about the eternal number 14.

1. Johan Cruijff as footballer
Cruijff was by far the best Dutch footballer ever and was proclaimed best European footballer of the twentieth century. He played for Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante and Feyenoord. His list of achievements includes no less than ten national championships (eight of them with Ajax) and three Europa Cup I titles with Ajax. He narrowly failed to win the world championship.
 
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2. Johan Cruijff as trainer
As a trainer, Cruijff started in 1984 at Ajax, winning the Europa Cup II three years later. At Barcelona he was even more successful, with his Dream Team winning the national championship four times. His crowning achievement was his victory in the 1992 Champions League.
 
3. Johan Cruijff as national coach
Cruijff never managed to become the national coach of the Dutch team, though many wished he had, as he always knows best — watching from the sidelines. In 1993 he got close to getting the job, but the negotiations ended in a row. Since last year, however, Cruijff is the coach of Catalonia’s modest “national” team.
 
4. Johan Cruijff as troublemaker
With his outspoken opinions about football (as well as countless other matters), Cruijff often causes commotion. He parted from many of his employers with a row. Most recently, he caused a furore at Ajax after he published a column in which he described the club as “a major drama”, urging “everyone to leave for the sake of the club”.
 
5. Johan Cruijff as planetoid

Since last week, Cruijff can also be admired among the real stars, after the International Astronomical Union named a planetoid after the Dutch footballer. The celestial body, formerly known by the number 14282, can be seen between the planets Mars and Jupiter.
 
6. Johan Cruijff as linguistic innovator
Known for his linguistic brilliance and inimitable statements, Cruijff has actually coined a number of new Dutch sayings. Two of the best known are: “Every disadvantage has its advantage”, and “Before making a mistake, I don’t make it”.
 
7. Johan Cruijff as Johan Cruyff
 When Cruijff became a world star in 1970s, media abroad struggled spelling his name. The solution came from the oracle himself: foreign media and commercial texts can spell it as Cruyff, with a y, while in the Netherlands his name remains unaltered.

 

8. Johan Cruijff as singer
Not everything Cruijff touches turns into gold. When, in 1969, he recorded a single, it didn’t get past the 21st spot in the national hit parades. You can listen to it if you want to judge for yourself.

 

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9. Johan Cruijff as saviour
The many nicknames Cruijff has in the Netherlands include the Oracle of Barcelona and The Master. The best known is The Saviour, or El Salvador, a nickname he got in 1973, when he helped Barcelona become champion for the first time in 14 years.
 
10. Johan Cruijff as dish
When Ajax got a new stadium in 1996, many thought it should be called after Johan Cruijff. Instead, it was named the Amsterdam Arena. The same year a Johan Cruijff Trophy Dish was cooked up as the prize for the yearly match between the national champion and the cup winner. Under the plan, Cruijff himself was to award the trophy every year, but he has often proved unwilling to travel to Amsterdam for that purpose.

 
11. Johan Cruijff as benefactor
In 1997, Cruijf set up the Johan Cruyff Foundation to “promote the mental and physical well-being of children and youths”. Among its best-known results is the creation of small football pitches. In the Netherlands there now are more than 130. But there’s also one in South Africa and more are planned in Brazil and Japan. The Netherlands also has a Johan Cruyff University for rising top sports people.

12. Johan Cruijff as former smoker
Even as a professional footballer, Cruijff was known to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. Sometimes, he would even light one at half-time. He quit in 1991 after suffering a heart attack and having bypass surgery. Here is Cruijff in a striking Spanish anti-smoking commercial.

 

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13. Johan Cruijff as businessman
As businessman, Cruijff has had many successes as well as dramas. One success was his Cruyff football boot brand. His failed ventures include an investment he made in a dubiously run Catalan pigfarm in 1977, which led him to bankruptcy. The advantage of this particular disadvantage is that Cruijff dug up his old boots to continue making money on the football picth.
   
14. Johan Cruijff as number 14
Cruijff began his career at Ajax with the number 9. After a long injury, in 1970 he came back wearing the number 14, which he kept for the rest of his football career. When Cruijff turned 60, Ajax honoured him by deciding not to allow any other player to use the number 14 ever again.

 

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