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New musical puts late Dutch great Johan Cruyff center stage


The show charts the highs and lows of Cruyff’s life, ranging from his sporting achievements with Ajax, the Netherlands and Barcelona to the collapse of his business interests, which forced him to come out of retirement in the 1980s. It also touches on a kidnapping attempt in Spain that is said to have led to his decision not to play at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

It also puts his wife, Danny, center stage as a powerful woman who helped transform Cruyff into a superstar.

In the Netherlands, Cruyff is more than just the greatest soccer player the country has ever produced. He is also revered as a non-conformist, home-spun philosopher whose nuggets of wisdom were sometimes as hard to follow as his dribbles on the field.


De Ket’s favorite, translated from Dutch, is: “You will only see it once you figure it out.”

He wants his audience to figure out Cruyff’s story by telling it in songs, spoken word, archive video and dance on a stage that features two huge turntables and a set inspired by pop art.

For actor Tobias Nierop, who plays the lead role, the story already is close to home. His father was born in the same Amsterdam neighborhood — whose name translates as Concrete Village — as Cruyff. His grandfather’s brother kicked a ball on the streets with a young Cruyff.


Though he’s not much of a soccer player, Nierop can appreciate the enduring popularity of Cruyff, who cast himself as an entertainer as well as a sportsman. Not content with grinding out a victory, the willowy Cruyff always wanted to win beautifully.

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