A victory for football! Ajax and Spurs stick two fingers up at the Super League
Europe’s elite want to turn the Champions League into a closed shop – this week’s semi-final between two upstarts shows why that’s unacceptable.
On May 20, 1992, Johan Cruyff gathered his Barcelona players together for one final team talk before their European Cup final against Sampdoria at Wembley.
There was to be no rallying cry; no call to arms. The Dutchman spoke calmly and quietly and the message was characteristically simple.
“It’s a beautiful night,” he said. “The lights are shining. And there are thousands of fans here to see you.
“Go out and enjoy yourselves.”
And they did. That night in London, Barcelona lifted their first European Cup.
For all of the importance that Cruyff attached to football and its tactics, he believed that it was fundamentally a game to be enjoyed.
That it should be fun, for everyone involved.
“The public and the players should enjoy football,” he once wrote. “Football is spectacle. If not, it’s not football.”
Not everyone sees it like that, of course. It is far easier to destroy than create.
And it can be difficult to enjoy the game these days when money has become the determining factor between victory and defeat, reducing many leagues to foregone conclusions.
Cruyff, though, never adhered to the belief that it was impossible to compete with football’s big boys.
“Why couldn’t you beat a richer club?” he once asked. “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”