Hendrik Johannes Cruijff was born in East Amsterdam in 1947, a working-class district of a city damaged by war. He joined the youth system at Ajax and quickly showed exceptional talent. He played for the First XI in 1964, aged 17. By 1966 he was a star and in 1967 Ajax won the Dutch league title.
Prophet of Total Football
Along with Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff made the concept of “Total Football”. Cruyff led Ajax to win the European Cup in 1971. They won it again in 1972. Then Johan Cruyff migrated to Spain, sold to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee. At FC Barcelona, Cruyff’s arrival helped transform the club. The team beat Real Madrid and won the Spanish league. Cruyff became UEFA Footballer of the Year. In 1974 Cruyff led The Netherlands to the World Cup final, losing to West Germany 2-1.
Johan Cruyff the player faded slowly after 1978. He moved to the USA to play for Los Angeles Aztecs and had a second spell with Ajax, as well as national rivals Feyenoord, before retiring in 1984. But he then launched a second stellar career as a manager, first with Ajax and then with FC Barcelona. At both clubs Cruyff inspired a special style of playing. Barcelona won La Liga four years running. Johan Cruyff died in 2016 due to cancer. Now there are Johan Cruyf football stadiums in both Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Johan Cruyff was a genius as a player, and a revolutionary manager who transformed the style of the teams he managed. Few footballers are revered as both coach and manager at one club; but Cruyff did it with two, first in Amsterdam and then in Barcelona. Cruyff’s migration from The Netherlands to Spain made him an “honorary Catalan” who gave his son, Jordi, a Catalan name.
Educators could look at the life story of Johan Cruyff and work with young people to consider these questions:
- How have individuals, like Cruyff, built a European culture of football?
- What does the story of Cruyff tell us about a changing Europe after the Second World War?
Find out more
Find out more about Johan Cruyff by reading official tributes to his life and legacy by Ajax and Fc Barcelona. You can also watch a youtube video from FIFA official channel, Johan Cruyff FIFA classic player. Lastly we recommend checking out the Cruyff Foundation, which – as his legacy – supports and develops sports activities for children all over the world.
Johan Cruyff, 30 April 1974 (Photo: Dutch National Archive).
LIFE STORIES Latest
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
Today, 29 September, is the day on which French female football pioneer Carmen Pomiès was born in 1900 and passed away in 1982.
In cooperation with the festival “Forum on European Culture”, we spoke with author David Goldblatt about the value of football for Europe, taking historical perspectives.
On this day, 21 September, we look at how playing a game of football can contribute to peace by looking at the work of the NGO Childrens Football Alliance.
As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.
Football represents a large cultural space in society. It is not isolated from political developments. How have football players used this space to achieve their social goals?