Illustration by Lucinda Drake

His name was Hendrik Johannes Cruyff, better known as Johan Cruyff. He was born on April 25, 1947, Amsterdam, Netherlands, close to the Ajax FC stadium, home to a top tier team in the highest division of Dutch professional soccer. Cruyff played soccer for Ajax FC at the youth level from 1957-1963, starting at the age of 10.  He made his senior debut in 1964 for Ajax FC when he was 17, scoring the team’s only goal in a 3-1 loss against FC Groningen.

In 1973, Cruyff moved to FC Barcelona, one of the top European soccer clubs. During his time with them, he won two Ballon d’Or awards in 1973 and 1974, an honor given to the world’s best soccer player. After playing for Barcelona, Cruyff moved on and played in America with the North American Soccer League’s Los Angeles Aztecs for one season in 1979, winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Cruyff then moved to the Washington Diplomats for a season, then to Levante FC in Spain. He only played for them for one season before returning to Ajax. He played from them for two seasons, then moved on again to Feyenoord’s because Ajax didn’t renew his contract. He then led Feyenoord to an Eredivisie championship in the 1983-1984 season, before retiring from professional soccer.

Cruyff also represented the Dutch National Team from 1966-1984. One of his greatest achievements on the national team was when he led them to the World Cup final. The World Cup is a tournament between the top nations. Holland then lost to West Germany.

After a successful career, Cruyff then went on to have an amazing time as a head coach. He coached Ajax FC for three years, winning two KNVB Cups, a tournament dedicated towards Holland’s professional soccer teams. After his time at Ajax, he went on to manage Barcelona. During his time with Barcelona, he built a “Dream Team.” This team was a combination of top players that Cruyff signed to try and help bring the team some success, including Pep Guardiola, and Ronald Koeman. Guardiola was a top player who later became the head coach of Manchester City FC. Koeman was a top quality defender who played for the Dutch National Team.

Beyond his successes at Barcelona, Cruyff was most known for was his influence on Total Football with the Dutch National Team. Total Football is a tactic that encouraged players to take on any role on the field as needed. It helped the team have better ball movement. It created a better flow to the game. People could rotate to other positions on the field because teammates would fill in the positions that were left open. His main point was everyone would be on offense and everyone would be on defense. This would help cover the pitch better so there would be no open holes on the field that the opposing team could use to expose the defense. “Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is,” Cruyff once said.

Cruyff inspired people with style of play and football. Jonathan Nussbaum, head coach of the Franklin Women’s Varsity soccer team, said: “His name comes up in so many places as an influence on many other great players/coaches.”

Cruyff played soccer with passion. He learned ways to be a better player. He was a total footballer, both in the way he played and the way he looked at the game. He could do everything his team needed him to do. Cruyff is an inspiration to the people the Netherlands because he led them to greatness. They rewarded him with a stadium, called the Cruyff Stadium. It is home to the Holland National team and his club that he brought to fame, Ajax FC. Even though Cruyff passed away in 2016, he left an enormous legacy behind. “[Cruyff] is a football icon, his football skill and intelligence is something to have to admire,” said Nik Kovacevic (12), a varsity player on Franklin’s men’s soccer team. Cruyff is an inspiration because he is simple and precise with every move he makes on the soccer field, making him one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

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