specials | 2016-03-24
A sincere goodbye to Johan Cruyff, Barcelona's father
You came to Catalonia and changed everything, our homage to the father of the modern FC Barcelona
Tragedies sometimes lead to good things that come in our way. People who have been through unspeakable tragedies, and are able to grow past them, are usually grateful bad things came their way, because it made them better, stronger. Your history with football started with a tragedy, Johan, when you lost your father.
Had your father not died when you were so young, maybe you wouldn’t have joined Ajax at the tender age of 10. After all, after his passing, your mother started working at the Dutch club and would meet her new husband, also a club employee. And that opened the doors for you, the skinny little boy who spent most of his time on the streets of Amsterdam, with a ball and nothing else.
It wasn’t long before you were training with their first team, and what happened after your debut, well, it’s yet to be matched by any other football player to date: Three straight European Cups and three Golden Balls with your name. Europe has never produced a player nearly as good as you, and certainly not one who was able to win so many trophies with such dominance over their rivals.
1973 is a special year to every single Barcelona fan alive, especially those who are old enough to have witnessed the change you brought to Futbol Club Barcelona. 14 years without a La Liga title, and you landed in Catalonia. The best player in the world set out to win the league the fans craved for. And you did so after going to the Santiago Bernabéu and crushing them 5-0, scoring twice in a masterful performance.
You changed the mentality around FC Barcelona and Catalonia. The fans sought to thank you after the title, which made you speechless. When you refused to obey the Spanish authorities and registered your first born named Jordi, you made Catalans more proud than you could have ever imagined. Back then, they couldn’t register their own children with traditional Catalan names. And you just ignored what Spain demanded and did it anyway.
If that wasn't enough, before leaving the club you suggested to president Núñez that the club should house the young players like Ajax, leading to La Masia's successful template that would define the club's academy.
You also ignored common sense in 1978. You knew the horrors of the dictatorial government in Argentina, and refused to be part of their World Cup. And you were absolutely right: as Argentina beat your team on the final, people were literally being tortured just a few meters away from the pitch.
Awareness. That’s the thing that always set you apart from anyone else in football. You played with your head held high, ordering your teammates, to be at the right space at the right time. It was only natural you would become a coach, but what happened after you did, the change you brought, was far from natural.
You also started coaching in the Netherlands. But the 8 years you spent as FC Barcelona coach rewrote our club’s history for the better. After you left in 1978, we only managed to win one league, and the pessimism reached new heights during the 80s.
La Masia had been founded in 1978, but only when you took over as coach in 1988, and brought the mentality of someone who had also developed Ajax’s academy, that Barcelona really started to treat football like it should always be: something to bring joy to those who play, and those who watch.
That’s exactly what you did at Wembley. And precisely what you said to our players: “Go out there and enjoy yourselves”. And they did. Koeman made sure of that. And us culés have been enjoying ourselves ever since. Five Champions League trophies later, and 13 leagues, we are now the club with most titles in Spain, Europe and in International Competitions.
And we reached said success playing, most of the time, the way you pushed us to do as coach. And the success we are currently living happened because people you looked after, especially Guardiola, were learning from everything you taught them.
Pep did such a good job, that his Barcelona influenced Spain to win a World Cup and two Euros in just 4 years, using not only the same idea of football, but especially players that developed on the La Masia you helped build: Puyol, Piqué, Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta.
The best #9 to ever grace a football pitch, Romário, once said: “Football is supposed to be seen through Cruyff’s eyes”. And on the day those eyes stopped looking at a football pitch, all we have left are tears.
A few weeks back, you said you were winning 2-0 your match cancer, but you were only at half-time. In the second most important match of your life, the first being that one against Germany in 1974, sadly the opposition also turned it around. But, just like then, your loss only helped you to become an undying legend.
The last I heard from you was after Messi pulled your penalty. Yes, I’m aware a couple of players did it before you, but every single football fan had it seared on their brains that that was a Cruyff Penalty. You said that had made you happy. Messi, the pinnacle of La Masia, the pinnacle of the change you brought to Catalonia and our club, made you happy during your toughest fight. Truly, we were even happier you said.
FC Barcelona will win its 14th La Liga title since 1988 in a few weeks.
14 league titles after you took over and turned a losing club into an European giant. That’s the best homage we could possibly make, but we’ll try to get to Milan and make it even better.
Your history in football started after your father passed away, Johan.
And today, those of us who love football, are all orphans as well.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.