Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An interesting one of Cruiff, dressed hippie-style, the ball, and the vault. Players were seen pretty much like Led Zeppelin, the rock phenomena of the same decade – fun, outrages, badly behaved, but fantastic performers. The fans loved them; the critics hated them. Yet, when the smoke cleared, Led Zeppelin were shrewd businessmen and bank vaults were constantly on their minds. They never said so, though… Cruiff did not either. He looked like a mellow hippie, happy to be on the pitch and play his fantastic football. Behind the fa├žade – and even his chain smoking was part of the good myth: so many cigarettes and still running like a horse, a liberating image, contrasting to the ascetic idea of a footballer created in the 1960s – was the tough businessman.
Do you imagine payment for a goal scored in one’s own net? You should… World Cup 1974: Holland demolished Bulgaria 4-1, but Krol scored in the Holland’s net. Match over, Cruiff demanded payment for Krol’s goal. The team had a contract with a sponsor, who was to pay a bonus for every goal they scored. The contract did not say in which net, though, and Cruiff, the primary negotiator for the Dutch players went for the letter of the contract. The bonus was paid. Perhaps Holland should had scored another two goals in their own net…
But it was not only that: Cruiff played with different kit than the rest of Holland. He had personal contract with another firm.
World Cup 1974: The captains of Holland, Johan Cruiff, and Argentina, Roberto Perfumo, shaking hands before the start of the match. Note Cruiff’s kit.
Pleasant exchange of opinions between Neeskens and Maier at the World Cup 1974 final. Neeskens fitted with Adidas kit, as every other Dutch player, except their captain.

The transfer from Ajax to Barcelona in 1973. It was rumored for months, but both Cruiff and Ajax were evasive. It did not look sure thing, if one listened to the player – Cruiff hinted he was not moving. It must have been tough bargaining, because Barcelona bought another foreign player – the Peruvian star Hugo Sotil – before Cruiff. Spain lifted the old ban on foreign players that year, but only one foreigner was allowed to play. Buying Sotil did not make much sense, unless Cruiff’’s transfer was so tough to be actually uncertain possibility.World Cup 1978. Cruiff refused to play for Holland. He was not alone – many players did not want to play in protest of the brutality in Argentina, ruled by military hunta. Cruiff’s refusal went along at the time and only later the real reasons were unearthed: Cruiff wanted Holland to wear kits either made by Cruiff’s firm, or a firm Cruiff had personal contract with. Cruiff retaliated by refusing to play for national team.
He was hardly the only one. Most stars of the great Ajax have very few appearances for the national team. Much too often they refused to play for Holland. Breitner and Netzer quitted the West German national team in 1975 – they were outraged, because their girlfriends were not invited to official dinner given by the German Federation. From behind the Iron Curtain, those refusals were seen as expressions of freedom, but in the West such attitudes were severely criticized – rich and spoiled stars frivolously ignoring their duties. Some refusals seemed very whimsical indeed.
Colin Todt (Derby County) and Alan Hudson (Chelsea) simply did not show up for the English Under-23 national team match. They did not feel the match was important and did not see reason to join the team, preferring to do something else with their time – the explanation was along those lines. Apparently, the players no longer cared much for their country and their football.
The players were spoiled brats.
Colin Todt (Derby County) in more serious days – player of the year and eventually national player.
Alan Hudson (Chelsea) against Bobby Charlton (Manchester United). Responsibility vs frivolity. Considered one of the brightest hopes of British football in the early 1970s, Hudson quickly sunk into obscurity.