The soccer world is in mourning as Johan Cruyff, the legendary player who revolutionized the game with the ‘Cruyff turn,’ is dead. The 3-time Ballon d’Or winner passed away on March 24 from a long battle with lung cancer. He was 68.
A dark cloud of sadness has fallen on soccer fields across the world. Johan Cruyff, 68, the celebrated Dutch football player and coach, has died. The man who perfected the soccer feint, dubbed “The Cruyff Turn,” will forever be remembered for his impact on the game.
“On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with [lung] cancer,” a statement posted to the World of Johan Cruyff website read, per The Guardian. “It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Johan was diagnosed with cancer in October 2015, according to the BBC. He had been a smoker for years, and had to undergo a double heart bypass in 1991 due to his habit. He gave up cigarettes, replacing them with the lollipops he’d suck on during games. “Football has given me everything in life,” he said in a health ad, “[and] tobacco almost took it all away.” Though, it almost look like he’d recover, as he told reporters in Feb. 2016 that he was “2-0 in a match” against his disease and that he was “sure I will end up winning.”
This is one loss that soccer fans can’t easily shake off. Johan practically invented the soccer fake-out, changing up the game like no other, per the Daily Mail. He’ll be remembered for showcasing the “Cruyff Turn” at the 1974 World Cup match between the Netherlands, his home team, and Sweden. Johan’s skills would take the Dutch squad to the finals, though they would lose to West Germany. Johan, along with the team, Ajax, won three consecutive European Cup victories. He was also awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or three times: in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Johan retired as a player in 1984 and began his second life as a coach. He managed Ajax and Barcelona, both teams he played for. He took Barca to their first European Cup victory in 1992. He also led the squad to win the La Liga title four times in the early 1990s.
Upon hearing of his death, the Dutch Football Association said Johan was “the greatest Dutch footballer of all time and one of the world’s best ever. Our condolences go to his wife, family, friends and the entire football world at home and abroad. We wish everyone a lot of strength in this difficult time.”
Our thoughts are with Johan’s family, friend and the soccer world through this time of loss.