Johan Cruyff took his last breathe at the age of 68 © Getty Images
Johan Cruyff took his last breathe at the age of 68 © Getty Images

The Hague:  The death of Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff on Thursday at the age of 68 caused shock throughout the Netherlands. “With the death of Johan Cruyff, the Netherlands lost a unique and brilliant sportsman,” King Willem-Alexander was quoted as saying by Xinhua. “He has enriched our football and given it a new face. He used his heart and soul to make the sport accessible to everyone. He was an icon of the Netherlands.” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “The whole world knew him and through him the whole world knew the Netherlands and Dutch football.

“He is by far the most famous Dutchman in the world and the best representative the Netherlands could wish. He was an unforgettable sportsman and unforgettable man.” Dutch football association KNVB chairman Michael van Praag also expressed his sadness: “We lost our best footballer ever, our number 14 and our great football friend. We are devastated. Johan brought Dutch football to greater heights. The KNVB is eternally grateful for that.”

“Thank you Johan for being my biggest inspiration and teacher,” Ruud Gullit, captain of the 1988 European champions team of the Netherlands, reacted. “Thank you for paving the way for our generation and for putting the Netherlands on the map. Thank you for being you.” On Friday, the current Dutch national team will play a friendly against France in Amsterdam.

“This match will continue, but has to be a tribute to Cruyff,” KNVB director of professional football Bert van Oostveen said. “It’s terrible. The greatest soccer player of the Netherlands is not here anymore.” Due to Cruyff’s death, national broadcaster NOS adapted a different programming on TV and radio, with all additional broadcasts dominated by Cruyff. At his former home in the Amsterdam neighbourhood Betondorp, where he grew up, people spontaneously laid flowers.

Cruyff died on Thursday from lung cancer, which was diagnosed in October last year. “The health of Johan Cruyff has deteriorated rapidly in the last week and a half,” said his manager Carole Thate to the NOS. “At first he was very optimistic about the progress of his illness and genuinely thought that he was going to win this battle,” she added. “It’s a huge loss.”