Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 19 March 2009

SPAOTP's Virtual Museum of World Football #2

Johan Cruyff's Modified Netherlands Shirt (as worn during the 1974 World Cup)

It's a story that's often been told, but we'll tell it again for the purpose of admitting another object into our Virtual Museum of World Football.

In 1974, the tenth FIFA World Cup Finals were held in West Germany. Football was exploding into the worldwide phenomenon we know today thanks to the exploits of those skilful Brazilians four years earlier, and the hunger to find new footballing heroes was unquenchable.

Luckily, the Dutch were sending their best ever team of players to the World Cup and one man amongst them had the necessary skills to demand everyone's attention - Johan Cruyff.

By 1974, Cruyff had become one of the big names in world football. With Ajax, the club he joined as a 10-year-old, he'd achieved almost everything it was possible to achieve. He'd won the Dutch League, the Dutch Cup, the Dutch Footballer of the Year title, the European Footballer of the Year title, the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

It was hardly suprising, then, that such an amazing talent was attracting the attentions of some of the world's bigger clubs. In 1973, Barcelona offered Ajax around $2 million - an incredible fee at the time - and it proved too big to turn down. Cruyff joined the Catalans and promptly continued scoring goals the way he'd always done for Ajax and his country.

Cruyff was now the subject of numerous sponsorship deals and big-money advertising contracts, one of which would go on to pose a dilemma for the Dutchman. Sportswear company Puma had paid Cruyff a lot of money so that he'd promote their football boots and other equipment, and it was his intention to repay their generosity by remaining loyal to their brand.

Unfortunately for him and Puma, the Dutch football team had reached the 1974 World Cup and had their own agreement to wear Adidas apparel. Cruyff knew that he couldn't be seen to honour his contract with Puma by wearing another manufacturer's kit, so he used a little ingenuity to get around the problem.

Adidas had made a set of orange shirts for the Dutch team that featured the company's trademark three stripes in black running down the sleeves, but Cruyff had realised that it was actually possible to unpick them from the shirt. He therefore removed one black stripe from each sleeve, and in so doing rendered Adidas' most recognisable device depleted.

It was enough to allow Cruyff to take to the field with a clear conscience and Puma to rest easy in the knowledge that their star man wasn't showing misplaced allegiances.

As such a well-known example of football ephemera, it's only right that Cruyff's customised Netherlands shirt should take its place in our Virtual Museum, so let's put it in a glass case alongside Bob Stokoe's red tracksuit bottoms and admire the true genius of a real Dutch master. Johan, we salute you.

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