Why I Wear 14

cruyff6Back in the70’s when I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis MN we were hard pressed to find any sort of football. I’m talking proper football, not the incredible boring NFL type football. Yes there was the park and rec. in-house Edina soccer association, a bunch of scrub kids chasing a ball around once a week over summer break. To find real football the stuff of World Cup glory and European titles was, except for PBS Sunday showing of Soccer Made in Germany, impossible.

My first taste of Proper football was in 1976 when the Minnesota kicks came to town. I was hooked and as a 16 year-old and I was a season ticket holder. Yeah I went for the game not the tailgate party, though they were fun too. I drank in the sport. I was short skinny and not a very good athlete but I loved to play the game.

In the summer of 1977 or 78 someone got their hands on the official FIFA movie Heading for glory the story of the 1974 world cup game in West Germany. After watching the video I fell in love with the German National Team and Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff stole my imagination. I sucked at the game, I still do, but I love how Cruyff played the game so fluid so graceful yet so cunning. I tried and tried to emulate what I saw on that VHS tape. His first touch perfect, his vision of the field perfect. In my teenage head I would pretend I was Cruyff, until of course, I tripped over the ball doing his signature move and reality crashed down on top of me as I hit the floor. While I could never come close to making Cruyff’s moves mine I did adopt his number, #14. Even today when I kick around in the backyard in my old man head I see myself as Cruyff #14 and all.