Jan Olsson, the Swedish defender fooled by Johan Cruyff’s brilliant dummy at the 1974 World Cup, has revealed how he and his team-mates exploded into laughter after witnessing the winger’s most famous skill.
Cruyff’s mesmeric turn at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund has gone down in history as one of football’s most stunning moments as the Holland forward feigned to go one way but twisted the other, leaving a befuddled Olsson staring into space. Cruyff died of cancer on Thursday, aged 68.
The Group Three match finished 0-0 but the ‘Cruyff turn’ would become a defining image of the Dutch side in the 1970s, who lost to West Germany in the 1974 final and are considered one of the most exciting and inventive teams of all time.
Olsson was 32 when he was deceived by Cruyff’s moment of magic and, almost 42 years on, the former right-back recalls the reaction following the game.
“My team-mates after the game, we looked at each other, they started to laugh and I do the same,” Olsson told Press Association.
“I laughed then and I laugh now. It was very funny. He was a world-class player. I do my best but I was not a world-class player.
“The players in my team, they all laugh because they know me – we laughed together in the changing room because everyone saw what a player he was. What more could we do?”
As news of Cruyff’s death filtered through, social media was flooded with repeating video clips of the turn. Olsson has seen it back many times but is still left surprised.
“I do not understand how he did it. It was a fantastic sequence,” Olsson said.
“I thought I was going to take the ball. I still cannot understand. Now when I see the video, every time I think I have got the ball.
“When he is about to kick the ball I am sure I am going to take it, but every time he surprises me. I loved everything about this moment.”
A goalless draw was an excellent result for Sweden, who went on to qualify in second place from the group before losing in the next round.
Olsson, however, still felt compelled to congratulate Cruyff at the full-time whistle.
“After the game I thanked him for the match and said congratulations,” Olsson said. “Even though it was 0-0, it was right to say congratulations.”
It was the first of four times Olsson faced Cruyff, another meeting coming later in 1974 when Holland thrashed Sweden 5-1 in Stockholm and Cruyff scored the opening goal.
The other two occasions were at club level, with Olsson playing for Swedish club Atvidabergs against Barcelona in the European Cup, but he never forgot his first encounter.
“After that first time every moment he got the ball I thought ‘please, don’t do it again’,” Olsson said.
“I think I knew at the time it would become a famous moment. Many people after tell me, ‘do it with me, the sequence with Johan Cruyff’.
“Many people say that and I do the same because I am very proud to have been there. My parents remembered this sequence.
“I played football at the top for 18 years and never experienced anything like it.”
Olsson admits he wishes now he had asked for Cruyff’s shirt, but he has kept no other memorabilia from the game.
“I don’t have any photos or anything. I don’t want them,” Olsson said.
“I remember everything in my heart. Everything from that match is in my mind and my heart.
“I have the memory. It is a moment I remember every day. Every day I think about football, I think about Johan Cruyff.
“I had the pleasure to meet him – a great player, great trainer, great gentleman, I think he had everything.”