Sport Premier League

Friday 9 December 2016

Aidan O'Hara: Hard to believe that Cruyff would have wanted the football to stop

Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30

Netherland’s midfielder Davy Klaassen (L) and Netherland’s midfielder Quincy Promes applaud during a standing ovation in honour of late Dutch football legend Johann Cruyff Photo: Getty
Netherland’s midfielder Davy Klaassen (L) and Netherland’s midfielder Quincy Promes applaud during a standing ovation in honour of late Dutch football legend Johann Cruyff Photo: Getty

In the many fine articles written about Johan Cruyff since his untimely death, one of the things that shines through is his belief that the game itself, rather than winning it, is the most important aspect of football.

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Another is his abhorrence of absurdity and bullsh**, while he was also a man who knew how to tell the difference between innovation and gimmickry.

When it comes to supporters getting their point across, it's easy to believe that Cruyff would have appreciated the innovation of Liverpool fans earlier in the season to walk out of Anfield en masse in the 77th minute of their game against Sunderland.

In theory, having already paid their money, it meant they were performing an act of suffering - though in practice they were the lucky ones - and it also would have appealed to Cruyff's belief in standing up for what you believe in against figures of authority who don't understand the game.

Window-dressing

Quite what Cruyff would have made of stopping an international friendly - or any other match - in the 14th minute to pay tribute to him is open to interpretation but it smacked of the sort of window-dressing which Cruyff rarely seemed to appreciate.

When an icon dies, social media tends to trip over itself as people attempt to out-grief each other and so the idea came that stopping a match was deemed a desirable way to honour a person whose entire football being was all about flow and movement.

Campaigns such as the Anfield walk-out are impossible without social media as are the poignant moments which a crowd may honour a death with a minute's applause during a game while it is going on, usually if they haven't had the opportunity to do so before kick-off. Stopping the match, however, seems to be - to use a word Cruyff was apparently quite fond of - absurd.

Perhaps they missed an opportunity at the bars of the Amsterdam ArenA where instead of the purchaser handing the money directly to the cashier, they could pass the money to the person on their right who could hold it for a moment and then give it back to the purchaser who could eventually hand it over. What a perfect way to honour Cruyff's famous penalty with Jesper Olsen.

Having bought the beer, the customer could place it on the ground and flick it with their instep in order to pay homage to the Cruyff turn.

These acts would probably be met with the same sort of bemusement which affected the players involved in the 14th-minute tribute in Amsterdam on Friday night when the French team were celebrating Olivier Giroud's second goal which put them 2-0 up.

The goal came just before the 13th minute and by the time the French team were making their way back towards halfway, a minute had passed, the referee blew his whistle and what was meant to be a minute's silence turned into a minute's applause. There were plenty of people who felt stopping the game was a classy tribute but it's hard to marry that word with the image of French defenders wandering back into their positions while applauding. It might have been deemed disrespectful had the idea not been so ridiculous in the first place.

Giroud's goal was perfectly timed given that it allowed for a natural stoppage in which to wedge in a minute for the game to be halted.

The previous night in Feyenoord's friendly against Sparta Rotterdam, the 14th minute coincided with a throw-in when several players initially put their hands on their hips before realising what was going on and clapping them together.

The pity is that there wasn't a hard tackle delivered after 13 minutes and 55 seconds which would have allowed for the spectre of two players squaring up to each other in anger before applauding in each other's faces and gaining a sense of perspective in the minute they were apparently honouring Cruyff's memory.

It's not difficult to think that the man himself would have preferred them to just get on with the game.

What was planned to be a minute's silence in Amsterdam developed into a minute's applause which is meant to be more celebratory than solemn but actually affords the same standing ovation acknowledgment to the deceased person as it would to a player who had scored a couple of goals and is being substituted late in the game.

Unique

What makes a minute's silence special is that it is so rare for thousands of people to reflect together in the one moment with each person likely to have their unique reflection of the person they are honouring or perhaps remember a loved one who died in similar circumstances.

In certain instances the moment is ruined by a few idiots shouting but by bowing to the lowest common denominator it is pandering to the sort of neanderthal who would probably believe that having the ability to put their hands together in a clapping motion is some sort of achievement.

Re-naming a stadium in his honour or a greater desire to practise the type of football which Cruyff preached would be a more fitting way to honour a person, player and manager who will never be forgotten anyway.

No gimmick or huge amount of likes and shares on social media will make him any more special than he was.

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