Little did I know that one day I would be contemplating the death and more importantly the life of one of the greatest football players in the world. Alas today I find myself doing exactly that as yesterday March 24 2016 Johan Cruijff passed away at the age of 68.
I was shocked and saddened by the news. Despite not being a great football fan, I felt a sense of loss, the end of an era....he was/is an icon and as such had been part of my life in ways I had hardly been aware of. When abroad, once you have mentioned you’re Dutch sooner or later his name would pop up in the conversation, and you would feel oddly proud you share the same nationality.
At home, not only did he bring us countless moments of joy thanks to his seemingly effortless moves on the pitch, his numerous, at times unintelligible, expressions have enriched the Dutch language for decades to come. Several of his phrases have found their way into our Dikke van Dale, the definitive dictionary of the Dutch language.
To quote just a couple, starting with the one everybody in Holland knows and uses regularly:
‘Elk nadeel heb zijn voordeel’ ’ Every disadvantage have it’s advantage.’
This one has me in stitches: ‘Er is maar één moment om op tijd te komen, ben je er niet dan ben je te laat of te vroeg.’ ‘There’s only one moment you can arrive on time, if you’re not there, you are either too late or too early.’
‘Als ik zou willen dat je het snapte had ik het beter uitgelegd.’ ‘If I had wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better.’
As insightful as a buddhist line: ‘Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt.’ ‘You can only see it once you understand it.’
‘Je wordt beter door slechter te worden’ ‘You become better by becoming worse. ‘
His grammar was often incorrect, or to put it differently, he was completely authentic and as famous as he was, remained true to who he was. In doing so, he has also taught me staying true to one’s self is the only way to go.
If I had to explain in just once sentence why he moved me so much, it would have to be: he brought us joy; in a world where there is always so much sadness, being able to offer others joy and therefore comfort, is, as far as I’m concerned, the most important thing you can do for one another.