Cruyff turns 60 but still refuses to mind his language

THE HAGUE: Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff celebrated his 60th birthday here yesterday where he is revered not only as the greatest player of all time but also as a cultural phenomenon who even has his own language: Cruyffian. 

Johan Cruyff arriving for the Laureus WorldAwards ceremony in Barcelona earlier this month. – Reuters

Comments like “coincidence is logical” and “you don’t get it until you understand it” have earned the ex-player a cult status in Holland. 

Cruyff, born April 25, 1947, is even the subject of articles in the Dutch Onze Taal (Our Language) magazine. 

“Cruyff the speaker slices and turns, accelerates and slows down in his language just as easily as he used to on the field,” linguists Guus Middag and Kees van der Zwan wrote. 

The triple European Footballer of the Year (1971, 1973 and 1974), and the European Footballer of the Century, is not just a famous ex-player but a football oracle in his own right whose opinions on the game are at once enormously insightful and startlingly simple. 

His analysis are often rambling stream-of-consciousness remarks like “Italians cannot beat you but you can lose to them”. 

The Dutch love it. 

“It had the power of paradox that comes with an air of deeper insight. It was slightly funny as with everything that could either be obvious or nonsense,” the linguists said. 

In the 1970s Cruyff symbolised the football revolution of the so-called total football – a fluid team where every player can play from every position if necessary – that the Dutch national team and his club Ajax made famous.  

He won eight Dutch League titles with Ajax Amsterdam and three European Cups and reached the World Cup final in 1974 only to lose to Holland’s arch-rival Germany.  

He went on to a successful career with Barcelona where he was revered as El Salvador (the saviour). 

Cruyff has always been an intelligent and strong willed player.  

Even when he was not yet a coach he was always advising the other players around him.  

After his playing career ended he became a coach even though he initially lacked qualifications.  

Eventually the Dutch football association (KNVB) grudgingly agreed to give him the status of coach without him having followed the required course. 

After a successful run coaching Ajax and Barcelona, Cruyff became a football analyst for Dutch public television.  

It was there that his strange use of language, coupled with his insights, propelled him to the status of resident oracle in Holland. 

His so-called Cruyffian language is very popular with his “every disadvantage has its advantage” becoming a modern catch phrase. 

In a poll commissioned by Dutch news agency ANP for his 60th birthday that phrase was voted most popular ahead of other classics as “If we have the ball, they can’t score” and “it doesn’t matter if the opposing side scores a goal as long as you score one more than them”. 

In the ANP poll only 25% of the 1,200 people polled said they understood his insights. Fifty-three per cent said they can’t always follow his analysis but don’t mind. 

According the book “Who is Johan Cruyff. Insiders explain the oracle” by Mik Schots and Jan Luitzen his biggest critic is his wife Danny. 

She told the authors that when he comes home from his TV job she often tells him “explain that to me again because I don’t understand what you meant”. 

The current Dutch national team coach Marco van Basten once said: “Johan drives me crazy because he always wants to be right”. 

“Then two months later he really drives me to insanity when it turns out he was right all along.” – AFP 

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