The Day Cruyff Came To Westport

While the soccer world mourns the death of Johan Cruyff — the electrifying, revolutionary player who brought Holland to global prominence, then as a coach laid the foundation for Barcelona (and Spain’s) enduring influence — Westporters of a certain age recall the day the lithe forward arrived in town.

In 1979, a Dutchman named Bart van den Brink lived off Greens Farms Road. A successful businessman — and, like most of his countrymen, a passionate soccer fan — he wanted to bring his nation’s “Total Soccer” concept to the States. And, hopefully, make some money.

Bart brought Jan Brouwer — the coach of professional team Willem II — to Westport. Using this town as a base, they offered player clinics, coaching education, travel packages and more, all across the country.

Total Soccer SpectacularAt the same time, Greens Farms Academy — under coach Jim Baumann — saw a way to make its mark in soccer. Teaming up with Bart and Jan, they sponsored a day-long “Total Soccer Spectacular.”

There were games, contests — and, making a special appearance, the man who was then the greatest soccer player in the world.


John Videler remembers that day well.

Today he is a renowned photographer. But on that spring day, he was a 14 year old Westport kid. Thanks to Bart, Jan and John’s father Cor (a Netherlands native, and a photographer), John got to meet Cruyff.

Cor spoke to Cruyff in Dutch. He took a photo of his son, with the star. Later, Cruyff autographed it.

Johan Cruyff and John Videler. (Photo/Cor Videler)

Johan Cruyff and John Videler. (Photo/Cor Videler)

John’s cousin owns a pub in Holland. He put the photo in a prominent place. When John visited a few years later, he realized he was famous.

I remember Cruyff’s visit too. Just starting my coaching career, I was hired by Bart and Jan to work with their company. I wrote coaching manuals, acted as a liaison with Dutch players in the NASL, and made travel arrangements.

So, after the “Total Soccer Spectacular,” I was invited to Bart’s house. Cruyff, a few Dutch folks and I ate, drank beer and chatted. (As anyone who has been to Holland knows, the Dutch speak better English than we do.)

We were there for several hours. It was a great afternoon.

Except for one thing: The entire time, Cruyff chain-smoked.

That’s no exaggeration. When one cigarette was finished, he used it to light the next.

The soccer world lost one of its greatest players ever today, when Johan Cruyff died. He was 68 years old.

The cause was lung cancer.

Johan Cruyff 3

Johan Cruyff 2

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

7 responses to “The Day Cruyff Came To Westport

  1. Stuart McCarthy

    Cruyff Later a teammate of Westporter Ken Muphy for the Washimgton Diplomats (known fondly as “The Dips”

  2. Roughly a quarter of a century ago, Johan was featured in one of the most renowned anti-smoking commercials in Europe after he had major bypass surgery in his mid-40s.

    I’m obviously biased, but, for me, he was the greatest all-around individual player I have ever seen and was probably even more influential, if possible, as a coach.

  3. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    I like his quotes, some Yogi Berra-ish.

    • 3 Cruyff comments (all courtesy of Nancy’s brother, Tim):
       Technique isn’t juggling the ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that with practice. Then you can get a job in the circus.
       If I start running earlier than my opponent, I seem faster.
       Make sure your worst players get the ball the most. Then you get it back in no time.

  4. One more thing: that Total Soccer Spectacular was done under the umbrella of Inter Soccer, the sports agency Johan co-owned. Bart and Jan were part of Inter Soccer and then later split off to set up their own business focusing on youth clinics/camps.

  5. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Yes, back in the day everyone smoked. I think of hockey great Guy Lafleur, who admits that he, many players, would smoke during intermissions. It’s amazing. And so, that was Cruyff’s choice, too. So be it.

  6. I am surprised! I visited my brother a few times in Westport , and I knew that he has tried to promote european football in the US , but I have never known that Cruiff has been at his home. Thanks for this nice article.
    John van den Brink, Arnhem Holland.