AMSTERDAM: Johan Cruyff says the outpouring of support since he confirmed he was suffering from lung cancer have been emotional and heart warming but the leaking of the news disappointed him.
“I’m enormously proud of the appreciation that has been evident from all the reaction to the news,” the Netherlands’ most famous footballer wrote in his weekly newspaper column on Monday.
He cited the orchestrated applause for him in the 14th minute of matches across the Dutch league this weekend while at his old club Barcelona players wore special t-shirts ahead of Sunday’s league game against Eibar, bearing the words ‘Anims Johan’ — Catalan for ‘Get well soon Johan’.
Cruyff famously wore the No. 14 jersey throughout his colourful career with Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona, Feyenoord and the Dutch national team.
Spanish media broke news of the 68-year-old Cruyff’s condition on Thursday, not long after he had consulted doctor in Barcelona, where he lives. He was forced to confirm his diagnosis hours later.
“Now comes the waiting,” he wrote of the next step in the fight against the disease. “It was really disappointing that it leaked out because the only thing that I know right now is that I have lung cancer. Nothing more.”
An ex-smoker who had heart surgery in 1991, Cruyff emerged as one of the world’s greats in the early 1970s when he helped Ajax Amsterdam win three European Cups in a row from 1971-73 and also named European Footballer of the Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
He joined Barcelona for a then world record transfer fee of $2 million (1 million pounds), and it was Barcelona that would later define his coaching career, helping the Catalan club to win their first La Liga title in nearly 15 years in 1974.
He was also a key player in the great Netherlands team that reached the 1974 World Cup final when, for the first time, during the tournament a global audience saw him perform the now-famous ‘Cruyff turn’ the movement in which the player with the ball plays it behind their own leg before swerving away in the direction of the ball.
In 1999, he was voted European Player of the Century.