Football philosophy

Ex-footballer Johan Cruijff wants to use the ‘Club of 100’ to revamp politics. You may well ask what a footballer – even such a talented one – has to say about politics? Ode found the answer in a past interview Ischa Meijer held with Cruijff: ‘Football is the forerunner of societal developments.’

| April 2003 issue
The football player: ‘It is strange that in the past two-and-a-half years, I have not lost more than one competition match. Odd. Now why is that? I wonder about it. I suppose I was doing something that most players are unwilling to do: I was involved every second of the game. And you do not have to have the ball to do that. In a sense, that ball dominates the game – and yet it is really only a minimal aspect of the sum total. It so happened that I had the ball fairly often – but if you were to calculate exactly how long, it would most probably amount to an average of 5 minutes out of 90. In the end it is the other 85 minutes that make the essential difference: total concentration.
I hardly even noticed the crowd. I was mainly busy talking, directing, searching and thinking. It is hard to explain. It remains a mysterious thing. It is so simple. So how can it be that so often it does not work? It is simple arithmetic, which in most cases proves unsolvable. What part did I play in that whole? I really do not know.
What I do know is that six months after I left Ajax, many of the details I had introduced into the game were slipping away. But then, I could no longer see exactly what my contribution had been in that complexity of ever changing task assignments. During the match a part of me remained isolated, remote.
Last season I played for Feyenoord, and we won both the national championship and the cup. Did we play the best football? Not by any means. Were we superior? Out of the question. Then what were we? The most consistent team. We were never below average, always at least on that level. In so many matches, the other teams were better, but then they often fell below average – and that will always break you. After all, average also means: it is not so serious if you do something bad.
In its heyday, Ajax also always began in the middle – that made it easier to take the step to the top. You have this game with 22 players, all of them individuals, and yet they form two teams. Everything in this field of sport is contradictory. The 11 of you must operate as a hermetic group, while each player is constantly being judged on his individual performance. Eleven ways of thinking, 11 opinions, 11 personalities – how can they ever agree? And yet on the field a common goal must be set.
Another complication is added: the problems that arise when things are not going well, appear in reverse when all is going smoothly. If there is a hitch, the guys, by being organised and not solely relying on their own insight, will give all it takes to get things back on track. If the game is progressing optimally, then these players will all want to stand out again anyway.
As a boy I was unaware of my talent. A group of older kids always let me play with them. At that time, there was no question of me being the best or feeling I was. I was the youngest and had to fight, time and again, to be allowed to join, to stay in the group, to belong – and that battle never really ended. It is just that at a certain moment you know what needs to be done to prevent you from playing poorly – and by that I mean playing poorly as a player, not playing for the crowd, because playing well for the crowd is simple really – whether it actually pays off is a different matter.
I really was bound to Ajax. But my love went through many stages. You love something, and then so many concerns pop up. If you are a poor player, you cannot make it with a top club – but if you are very good, you cannot make it either; because as a subordinate – what else are you as player? – you have to negotiate with people who have absolutely no insight into the matter at hand.
This is how it works in our organisation: after the trainer and the players there is nothing. The club directors do not have the faintest idea of what it is really all about. It is the same all over the world. I was a professional, but I always had to work with people who knew nothing about my job. That was the hardest part. I could always see what needed to be done, but others would only catch on a year later. I was thwarted. I was continually surrounded by amateurs who frustrated my idealism. In the early days, publicity could still tarnish me. Now I no longer care. I got over that long ago. Things had gone too far.
Only recently the newspapers said: ‘Cruijff is going to New Zealand.’ I knew nothing about it. I took my son down to the village and a man asked me: ‘Are you going to New Zealand?’ He had heard it on the radio. I went to Spain last week, there too the papers were full of it. Then the British called me about it. And on and on. If my name is mentioned somewhere, it never remains limited to one local paper – right away it is international news. Wherever in the world people see my face, they think that I am going to play in New Zealand.
It does not bother me any more. But for the others I have to work with publicity is a problem. They are still a long way from the point I have reached. I am already on my way down, and they have not even started their journey. This is the kind of contradiction I am always being confronted with. If I had been the best player on the field, 10 or 20 times, but we had not won the national championship, I would not have been considered Football Player of the Year. If I excelled only five times and we won the cup, then I was the greatest. That is how it goes. Another conflict. That is what made me withdraw, and learn how to play for the collective. That is how I escaped from all the immediate self-interest. I knew: interest in me is sure to come – as long as I turn out to have been good at the end of the day. And that personal appreciation is still the only standard that I was judged by, and still am, both as a businessman and as a person.
I always went against the grain of all the accepted opinions. I dared to say to myself: ‘Today is not important.’ So I do not really have to go around that guy now and shoot the ball in the goal myself. If the organisation is sound, we will succeed – maybe not today, but tomorrow. You could call it aloneness – you might also say that I am a good professional, better than the rest. I have always been ahead of the others.
I cannot afford to stop to think about certain things. There are these surveys that are conducted. They tell you how well known I am in the world. According to the latest data, two billion people know who I am. That is something I had to forget about – just stop thinking.
I was on my way up, higher and higher – at a certain moment I was as high as I could get. To be able to appreciate things in a normal way, sooner or later I just had to fall back down. So naturally that strange adventure with that conman was partly my own doing. I fell. I fell hard. Looking back, I think it was my finest moment. It was the best thing that could have happened to me then. It gave me the chance to make a quiet new start. It could not have been better if it had been planned.
Nothing can be a coincidence. I may not have had much schooling, but I was endowed with a large amount of talent. Maybe whoever gave me this talent thought I had not played long enough; that I had allowed too few people to enjoy it. He may also have thought: have a good hard fall, and then go travel the world. Otherwise, why was it that up until I was 30 I had only played for two clubs, and then after that I had to wander the world? That is ridiculous, strictly speaking. But it had to happen. And I would not have missed it. And yet – if I had not been dealt that blow, I would not have done it.
My main problem in those days was being disappointed in people. That, too, is something you must learn. Out of every hundred people I meet, ninety-nine-and-a-half are out to get something from me. Hardly anyone brings me anything – and I am not just talking about money. I once made a mistake in this respect. And I resent it. But I am not in a hurry. I still say: ‘It was good.’ That too is contradictory. I have seldom, if ever, been to church. I do think about those matters, in my own way.
I am only 37. But so many things have happened to me; so extreme, so various – everything. The good experiences are a 100 times more powerful than those of someone else my age; but so are the disappointments. Then you think: ‘That cannot be all there is to it.’ The funny thing is: no matter how you look at it, it is always fifty-fifty. Is not it odd? Even though I am the best player in the world – it is always: 50% pro and 50% against. Everything is always the middle. I need that balance to be able to stand all those tensions.
I do not know fear, just doubt. But that is never been true of my profession, where I went was always risk instead of certainty. That was part of my style. Over and over, it was: make the calculation in the fraction of a second between observation and action.
When the referee blew the final whistle, I was exhausted, pooped. The time it took to recuperate grew longer and longer. When I was 20, it only took two hours, in my last matches, three days. Completely worn out. I may have existed, but was not there: two days gone completely, and the third spent slowly recovering.
For the first time now I really watch matches. When they are over, I have a headache – apparently that is how intensely I experience it. This is another one of those phases I have to go through. As a spectator I suddenly find myself in an entirely different situation. I am engrossed in a different way then before. I had never seen the game at all. To me, playing meant a glance, a remark and forgetting about it. Now I have to really digest what I observe.
The human body can take a lot. It is not hard to extend your pain barrier. When two groups of 11 men each are fighting for the ball, you cannot avoid physical contact. When that takes place face to face, it does not worry me at all. Kicking someone from behind is senseless of course – and that makes me very angry. But if someone tackles me from the front, gives me a body check or holds on to me, I do not mind. I can understand that. If someone pulls my shirt, I accept it. I have done it myself. But the kicking – let me put it this way, my view on what constitutes a yellow and a red card is very different from what the regulations say. But on the other hand, you cannot simply declare that the official guidelines are wrong, or not correctly applied.
I prefer not to have set rules. It is incredibly difficult to judge whether or not in certain circumstances pulling someone is shirt should be punished. It is practically impossible to determine. And so we speak of the level of the referee. Twenty referees have 20 different opinions. That is why you need rules, and the existing regulations are not bad. But a really good referee has highly individual standards, and knows how to make it acceptable.
For every 1,000- football players in this country, there are 50 referees, of whom only two or three really have the authority to independently judge the game and can make the decisions that are right at that moment. I have never been a referee, never felt the urge to be one – I know that in that position I would be highly controversial; that I would do what I thought right. I would not give a damn about the rules.
Rules mean uniformity, and in football nothing is simple; no action, no moment is ever the same. Sometimes I see a foul, and I think to myself: ‘Strictly speaking that is not allowed, but in this case it is justified.’ Football is complete order and anarchy. That is my way of thinking about the game. And I usually have to keep it to myself, because 9 times out of 10 it is not understood.
Now, at last, I have time to mull over the things I have always felt. And right away you face your main frustration – no one understands. You are only fit for the absolute top, anyway, if you propagate thoughts that can only be comprehended by that terribly small elite.
There is an appalling lack of respect in today is society. Rules are broken all the time. Football is the omen of what is going to take place in society. So many human aspects are united in that sport. For example, being the individual in a team, in other words, a reflection of democracy. It happened before our very eyes: first came the levelling in football; a little later we noticed that tendency in everyday life. And what is happening now? The crowd would still rather see the independently operating player: individualization, and, therefore, decentralisation. Three years ago you could see that on the field, and now it has spread everywhere.
I have been noticing strange things lately. I read the Ajax club magazine, and see that a friend of mine, who I used to play football with, received a memento for having been a member for 25 years. Unimportant really, then I began to wonder: ‘How long have I been a member of that club?’ It turns out that I had only been a member for six years. All the time I was a professional; I could not be a member of the club, a special member, yes. That has to do with the statutes, and I do not condemn it at all. I am only stating a fact: for 10 years I fought the battles, did the dirty work – and I am not even a member. And then I think: ‘Is this not a comical situation?’ Not that it bothers me. It only makes you feel more aloof. You are always an outsider. And I never know how to answer the question: ‘How do you feel?’ I really do not know.
Now I am doing all kinds of things. Sometimes some really weird stuff, but I experience it as very normal and simple – that is the way I am. I am busy trying to make one whole out of Dutch trade and industry, so it can present itself as a solid block, for exporting. If you want to set up something, you always need several components – just like in football: backs, forwards, this, that and the other. It is exactly the same in trade and industry. One company is good at this, the other at that, and both those firms need publicity. I can offer them that.
Instead of everyone working for himself, a number of companies lump their funds together. This way they become a team and I become their representative, a kind of captain, just as I was in football. I go entirely by my own insights: I offer them in a rough form, and they polish them. The first group of companies has already been formed.
Compare it to the old days, when we had those ships sailing the seven seas, which were then joined to make a Compagnie – which is what made them profitable. We are again aiming for something like that.
The same question keeps turning up: ‘How far are you willing to go?’
 
 

Solution News Source

Football philosophy

Ex-footballer Johan Cruijff wants to use the ‘Club of 100’ to revamp politics. You may well ask what a footballer – even such a talented one – has to say about politics? Ode found the answer in a past interview Ischa Meijer held with Cruijff: ‘Football is the forerunner of societal developments.’

| April 2003 issue
The football player: ‘It is strange that in the past two-and-a-half years, I have not lost more than one competition match. Odd. Now why is that? I wonder about it. I suppose I was doing something that most players are unwilling to do: I was involved every second of the game. And you do not have to have the ball to do that. In a sense, that ball dominates the game – and yet it is really only a minimal aspect of the sum total. It so happened that I had the ball fairly often – but if you were to calculate exactly how long, it would most probably amount to an average of 5 minutes out of 90. In the end it is the other 85 minutes that make the essential difference: total concentration.
I hardly even noticed the crowd. I was mainly busy talking, directing, searching and thinking. It is hard to explain. It remains a mysterious thing. It is so simple. So how can it be that so often it does not work? It is simple arithmetic, which in most cases proves unsolvable. What part did I play in that whole? I really do not know.
What I do know is that six months after I left Ajax, many of the details I had introduced into the game were slipping away. But then, I could no longer see exactly what my contribution had been in that complexity of ever changing task assignments. During the match a part of me remained isolated, remote.
Last season I played for Feyenoord, and we won both the national championship and the cup. Did we play the best football? Not by any means. Were we superior? Out of the question. Then what were we? The most consistent team. We were never below average, always at least on that level. In so many matches, the other teams were better, but then they often fell below average – and that will always break you. After all, average also means: it is not so serious if you do something bad.
In its heyday, Ajax also always began in the middle – that made it easier to take the step to the top. You have this game with 22 players, all of them individuals, and yet they form two teams. Everything in this field of sport is contradictory. The 11 of you must operate as a hermetic group, while each player is constantly being judged on his individual performance. Eleven ways of thinking, 11 opinions, 11 personalities – how can they ever agree? And yet on the field a common goal must be set.
Another complication is added: the problems that arise when things are not going well, appear in reverse when all is going smoothly. If there is a hitch, the guys, by being organised and not solely relying on their own insight, will give all it takes to get things back on track. If the game is progressing optimally, then these players will all want to stand out again anyway.
As a boy I was unaware of my talent. A group of older kids always let me play with them. At that time, there was no question of me being the best or feeling I was. I was the youngest and had to fight, time and again, to be allowed to join, to stay in the group, to belong – and that battle never really ended. It is just that at a certain moment you know what needs to be done to prevent you from playing poorly – and by that I mean playing poorly as a player, not playing for the crowd, because playing well for the crowd is simple really – whether it actually pays off is a different matter.
I really was bound to Ajax. But my love went through many stages. You love something, and then so many concerns pop up. If you are a poor player, you cannot make it with a top club – but if you are very good, you cannot make it either; because as a subordinate – what else are you as player? – you have to negotiate with people who have absolutely no insight into the matter at hand.
This is how it works in our organisation: after the trainer and the players there is nothing. The club directors do not have the faintest idea of what it is really all about. It is the same all over the world. I was a professional, but I always had to work with people who knew nothing about my job. That was the hardest part. I could always see what needed to be done, but others would only catch on a year later. I was thwarted. I was continually surrounded by amateurs who frustrated my idealism. In the early days, publicity could still tarnish me. Now I no longer care. I got over that long ago. Things had gone too far.
Only recently the newspapers said: ‘Cruijff is going to New Zealand.’ I knew nothing about it. I took my son down to the village and a man asked me: ‘Are you going to New Zealand?’ He had heard it on the radio. I went to Spain last week, there too the papers were full of it. Then the British called me about it. And on and on. If my name is mentioned somewhere, it never remains limited to one local paper – right away it is international news. Wherever in the world people see my face, they think that I am going to play in New Zealand.
It does not bother me any more. But for the others I have to work with publicity is a problem. They are still a long way from the point I have reached. I am already on my way down, and they have not even started their journey. This is the kind of contradiction I am always being confronted with. If I had been the best player on the field, 10 or 20 times, but we had not won the national championship, I would not have been considered Football Player of the Year. If I excelled only five times and we won the cup, then I was the greatest. That is how it goes. Another conflict. That is what made me withdraw, and learn how to play for the collective. That is how I escaped from all the immediate self-interest. I knew: interest in me is sure to come – as long as I turn out to have been good at the end of the day. And that personal appreciation is still the only standard that I was judged by, and still am, both as a businessman and as a person.
I always went against the grain of all the accepted opinions. I dared to say to myself: ‘Today is not important.’ So I do not really have to go around that guy now and shoot the ball in the goal myself. If the organisation is sound, we will succeed – maybe not today, but tomorrow. You could call it aloneness – you might also say that I am a good professional, better than the rest. I have always been ahead of the others.
I cannot afford to stop to think about certain things. There are these surveys that are conducted. They tell you how well known I am in the world. According to the latest data, two billion people know who I am. That is something I had to forget about – just stop thinking.
I was on my way up, higher and higher – at a certain moment I was as high as I could get. To be able to appreciate things in a normal way, sooner or later I just had to fall back down. So naturally that strange adventure with that conman was partly my own doing. I fell. I fell hard. Looking back, I think it was my finest moment. It was the best thing that could have happened to me then. It gave me the chance to make a quiet new start. It could not have been better if it had been planned.
Nothing can be a coincidence. I may not have had much schooling, but I was endowed with a large amount of talent. Maybe whoever gave me this talent thought I had not played long enough; that I had allowed too few people to enjoy it. He may also have thought: have a good hard fall, and then go travel the world. Otherwise, why was it that up until I was 30 I had only played for two clubs, and then after that I had to wander the world? That is ridiculous, strictly speaking. But it had to happen. And I would not have missed it. And yet – if I had not been dealt that blow, I would not have done it.
My main problem in those days was being disappointed in people. That, too, is something you must learn. Out of every hundred people I meet, ninety-nine-and-a-half are out to get something from me. Hardly anyone brings me anything – and I am not just talking about money. I once made a mistake in this respect. And I resent it. But I am not in a hurry. I still say: ‘It was good.’ That too is contradictory. I have seldom, if ever, been to church. I do think about those matters, in my own way.
I am only 37. But so many things have happened to me; so extreme, so various – everything. The good experiences are a 100 times more powerful than those of someone else my age; but so are the disappointments. Then you think: ‘That cannot be all there is to it.’ The funny thing is: no matter how you look at it, it is always fifty-fifty. Is not it odd? Even though I am the best player in the world – it is always: 50% pro and 50% against. Everything is always the middle. I need that balance to be able to stand all those tensions.
I do not know fear, just doubt. But that is never been true of my profession, where I went was always risk instead of certainty. That was part of my style. Over and over, it was: make the calculation in the fraction of a second between observation and action.
When the referee blew the final whistle, I was exhausted, pooped. The time it took to recuperate grew longer and longer. When I was 20, it only took two hours, in my last matches, three days. Completely worn out. I may have existed, but was not there: two days gone completely, and the third spent slowly recovering.
For the first time now I really watch matches. When they are over, I have a headache – apparently that is how intensely I experience it. This is another one of those phases I have to go through. As a spectator I suddenly find myself in an entirely different situation. I am engrossed in a different way then before. I had never seen the game at all. To me, playing meant a glance, a remark and forgetting about it. Now I have to really digest what I observe.
The human body can take a lot. It is not hard to extend your pain barrier. When two groups of 11 men each are fighting for the ball, you cannot avoid physical contact. When that takes place face to face, it does not worry me at all. Kicking someone from behind is senseless of course – and that makes me very angry. But if someone tackles me from the front, gives me a body check or holds on to me, I do not mind. I can understand that. If someone pulls my shirt, I accept it. I have done it myself. But the kicking – let me put it this way, my view on what constitutes a yellow and a red card is very different from what the regulations say. But on the other hand, you cannot simply declare that the official guidelines are wrong, or not correctly applied.
I prefer not to have set rules. It is incredibly difficult to judge whether or not in certain circumstances pulling someone is shirt should be punished. It is practically impossible to determine. And so we speak of the level of the referee. Twenty referees have 20 different opinions. That is why you need rules, and the existing regulations are not bad. But a really good referee has highly individual standards, and knows how to make it acceptable.
For every 1,000- football players in this country, there are 50 referees, of whom only two or three really have the authority to independently judge the game and can make the decisions that are right at that moment. I have never been a referee, never felt the urge to be one – I know that in that position I would be highly controversial; that I would do what I thought right. I would not give a damn about the rules.
Rules mean uniformity, and in football nothing is simple; no action, no moment is ever the same. Sometimes I see a foul, and I think to myself: ‘Strictly speaking that is not allowed, but in this case it is justified.’ Football is complete order and anarchy. That is my way of thinking about the game. And I usually have to keep it to myself, because 9 times out of 10 it is not understood.
Now, at last, I have time to mull over the things I have always felt. And right away you face your main frustration – no one understands. You are only fit for the absolute top, anyway, if you propagate thoughts that can only be comprehended by that terribly small elite.
There is an appalling lack of respect in today is society. Rules are broken all the time. Football is the omen of what is going to take place in society. So many human aspects are united in that sport. For example, being the individual in a team, in other words, a reflection of democracy. It happened before our very eyes: first came the levelling in football; a little later we noticed that tendency in everyday life. And what is happening now? The crowd would still rather see the independently operating player: individualization, and, therefore, decentralisation. Three years ago you could see that on the field, and now it has spread everywhere.
I have been noticing strange things lately. I read the Ajax club magazine, and see that a friend of mine, who I used to play football with, received a memento for having been a member for 25 years. Unimportant really, then I began to wonder: ‘How long have I been a member of that club?’ It turns out that I had only been a member for six years. All the time I was a professional; I could not be a member of the club, a special member, yes. That has to do with the statutes, and I do not condemn it at all. I am only stating a fact: for 10 years I fought the battles, did the dirty work – and I am not even a member. And then I think: ‘Is this not a comical situation?’ Not that it bothers me. It only makes you feel more aloof. You are always an outsider. And I never know how to answer the question: ‘How do you feel?’ I really do not know.
Now I am doing all kinds of things. Sometimes some really weird stuff, but I experience it as very normal and simple – that is the way I am. I am busy trying to make one whole out of Dutch trade and industry, so it can present itself as a solid block, for exporting. If you want to set up something, you always need several components – just like in football: backs, forwards, this, that and the other. It is exactly the same in trade and industry. One company is good at this, the other at that, and both those firms need publicity. I can offer them that.
Instead of everyone working for himself, a number of companies lump their funds together. This way they become a team and I become their representative, a kind of captain, just as I was in football. I go entirely by my own insights: I offer them in a rough form, and they polish them. The first group of companies has already been formed.
Compare it to the old days, when we had those ships sailing the seven seas, which were then joined to make a Compagnie – which is what made them profitable. We are again aiming for something like that.
The same question keeps turning up: ‘How far are you willing to go?’
 
 

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