I never met you, Johan, but you were everywhere for most of my life.
One of the first conscious childhood memories I have got is related to football. I was five, and not into football at that time because my life revolved around Micro Machines, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This story takes place on May, 20th, in 1992.
That night marked a turning point in Football Club Barcelona's history: the club won their first European Championship in their almost 100 years of existence thanks to this impressive strike by Ronald Koeman. FC Barcelona was then managed by Johan Cruyff, who died yesterday at age 68.
While I was playing with my toys right after dinner, my whole family was watching that historical game as if there were no tomorrow. When Koeman scored in the extra time, an explosion of joy & cheering could be heard all over the house. It was so loud, it woke up my cousin, who was barely two years old at the time, and I remember him crying while the rest of the family was dancing and crying from the emotion.
I didn't understand what was going on. But I soon learnt that there was more than a team winning a competition.
1. Johan changed the team forever
Johan Cruyff was at the time the coach of FC Barcelona, having previously been one of the star players during the 70s.
Coincidentally, he led the team, both as a player and as a coach, in the two most successful periods of the teams history. We grudgingly admit that we had always been Spain's second team, after arch-rivals Real Madrid, except for these periods, where Barcelona reigned thanks to the influence of Cruyff's skills as a player and methods as a coach.
Stemming from the Dutch school, he introduced the culture of ball keeping and possession game, whereby - as he put it - if you've got the ball, the opponent cannot score.
This has become FC Barcelona's trademark and playbook up until now and created a new breed of players that wouldn't have otherwise been successful such as Guardiola, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Quite the coincidence, our best players recently.
Guardiola, the best coach we have ever had, admitted that he owes all his successes to Cruyff's influence.
2. Johan changed the country
Much to some people's dismay, FC Barcelona has been the representation of the Catalan culture at an international level. Almost like our national team, going beyond borders and ideologies, without excluding anyone.
By turning the team into a winning one, this inspired the rest of the country in turn. We used to live in constant defeat, whereas now we know we're capable of everything.
Johan also defied the Spanish legislation forbidding couples christening their children with Catalan names when he named his first child Jordi (Catalan for George).
He became an icon in the country, and was all over TV and the press, oftentimes becoming also one of the most imitated celebrities in humour TV and Radio programs.
Last, but not least, Johan showed more respect and implication with the Catalan cause by managing the Catalan National Team for some years.
3. Johan changed my life
I remember that soon after the Wembley final, I started watching football more assiduously and turned into a big FC Barcelona fan, which I still am nowadays.
Football has since then become a fundamental part of my life: I've played football, I've watched TONS of matches, played lots of football videogames and, most of all, inherited Cruyff's playbook in other parts of my life. As a player, I played following his style, and as a manager or team leader, I tried to apply his vision of teamwork and team crafting.
That's right: I took some of the values and methods that he preached to apply them in real life, in business or in my personal projects.
Those who know me will see some of Johan Cruyff's values or best quotes in what I do. I mostly believe in this one: Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.
That's right. I play to win, but also to show my style.
Dank je wel, Johan. You changed the game forever.
Now Playing: Cradle of Filth - Succumb to This.