opinions | 2015-10-23
An open letter to Johan Cruyff
Now is not the time.
Now is not the time for memories. To recollect how after winning the 1974 league you lifted the club’s spirits, turning end of season celebrations into much-awaited and meaningful thank-yous.
Now is not the time for nostalgia of totalfootball. Nor is it the time to bring up how powerful ideas have outlasted what was supposed to be defeat.
Now is not the time to remember the Cruyff turn. Or your turns of phrase. That simple way of packing meaning into something that should be obvious but needs reminding, encapsulating a vision and creating a philosophy that went far beyond the touchlines in the process. Or the characteristic, endearing way of yours of confusing gender and number when speaking Spanish or Catalan.
Now is not the time to remember how your vision helped create La Masia, a factory of players and ideas but more than anything a home. It isn’t the time, even as many start to worry about its future in a global game defined by money and superstars, not the ability to think when on the pitch. For a firm belief in ideas can overcome any crisis.
Nor is it time to mention how badass you looked when smoking at halftime, or how you became a walking billboard for Chupa Chups (lollipop brand) when you quit.
Or how you brought us the club’s first Champions League. Or how in every major spell of the club’s success, you always played the largest of roles.
Now isn’t the time to remember how by naming your kid Jordi you became more Catalan than calcotades or pa amb tomaquet. And how it signaled a complete integration to a culture that already adored you. A Dutch-Catalan connection that now transcended footballing ideas. It was now personal. It was all people spoke about for days. Crazy how a simple name can do that. How it can mean that much.
Now is not the time to worry about the scandal brewing on the sidelines, however important the allegations may end up being.
Now is not the time, even though your second home is convinced that it is, politically speaking.
And speaking of politics, now is not the time to criticize a board that has pushed you to the sidelines. Nor is it the time to point to Bartomeu’s words of support as hypocritical, for no matter what he said or didn’t say, all was already said and done. For you began as a bystander and were forced to take sides.
For although the club as a current institution may have moved on, the city of Barcelona has not. Neither has a Netherlands in need of footballing rejuvenation, or the footballing world at large, desperate for ideas to retake that beautiful role they once played. There is a yearning for a purer past. It is there. You can sense it.
Now is not the time to lament the direction our club, or the game, is heading in. Or to evaluate the validity of your criticisms, which you were always willing to provide if asked.
No. For that would be disrespectful to your figure, to your humanity, and for all that you have left to teach us and for all that you have left to live. You still have one final trick up your sleeve.
For you, Johan, no goal is impossible. The mind can always overcome the physical.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
WRITTEN BY: Aldo Sainati
Aldo Sainati is a trilingual football writer and experienced coach based in Barcelona.