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?”
Johan Cruyff – life in pictures
Unrivalled success at Ajax
After joining the Ajax youth system on his 10th birthday, Johan Cruyff made his debut in 1964 before going on to win eight Eredivisie titles and the European Cup on three occasions with the Dutch giants
Setting the European agenda
Cruyff was an integral figure behind Ajax’s dominance in continental football as the Dutch outfit lifted three consecutive European Cups between 1971-73.
Reaching the World Cup final
The forward’s colourful exploits allowed the Netherlands to reach the World Cup final in 1974 but he couldn’t help see off an imperious Germany side at Munich’s Olympic Stadium. He scored 33 goals for Oranje in 48 appearances between 1966-1977.
Dutch royal approval
Cruyff and his fellow team-mates nonetheless earned legendary status among the wider Dutch public and they were given a heroes’ welcome by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands when they returned home in 1974.
The ‘Cruyff turn’
Now a global superstar, the enigmatic forward wrote himself into football folklore after perfecting the ‘Cruyff turn’ which is still being copied by modern day footballers today.
Success across the globe
Before being voted as European Player of the Century, Cruyff also represented Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante and Feyenoord. At the Nou Camp, he added La Liga and Copa del Rey triumphs to his glittering CV.
Trying his hand at management
Just a year after retiring from playing, Cruyff returned to Ajax as manager where his unyielding success continued with two KNVB Cups and the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup before leaving to take charge at Spanish juggernauts Barcelona.
Revolution at Barcelona
Cruyff led a period of revolution at the Catalan giants, lifting four La Liga titles and one European Cup as rivals Real Madrid were muzzled both domestically and on the European stage by his Barca side.
Becoming a TV personality
Fresh from his spell at the Nou Camp, Cruyff then became a prominent television personality, providing his unrivalled experience to Dutch audiences.
Stripped of honorary presidency
Cruyff was a controversial figure at Barcelona, however, and was named honorary president before being stripped of the title just months later after new president Sandro Rosell took office in July 2010.
Ajax called upon Cruyff’s services again in 2011, appointing him as an advisor, but the Amsterdam legend left just a year later after quelling with senior figures at the club.
Legacy in football
Cruyff remained a prominent figure in the world of football and was given the support of Barcelona’s current generation when news of his deteriorating health was made public in 2015.
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.”
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