Johan Cruyff yesterday denied being racist when he said that Edgar Davids was only on the board of Ajax because of the colour of his skin.
The iconic former Netherlands captain is currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with his four fellow members of the Ajax supervisory board over their appointment last week, without consulting him, of Louis van Gaal as club director,
Allegations surfaced over the weekend that Cruyff directed a racist comment at Davids, who is of Surinamese descent. Cruyff reportedly said at a meeting earlier this year that Davids' skin colour was the reason for his appointment to the board.
In his column in yesterday's edition of the Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Cruyff denied any racist connotations. The man widely considered one of the greatest footballers ever said that his comment had been made in connection with efforts by Ajax to keep young players of non-Dutch descent at the club.
"It was Frank Rijkaard's idea to tackle the problem by putting somebody from the same background on the board who had completed the youth academy," Cruyff wrote. "That was one of the reasons Edgar Davids was asked to be on the advisory board."
Davids also wrote on his blog that he had not intended to portray Cruyff as racist. "I have never said, and I want to stress it, that Johan Cruyff is racist," Davids wrote. The row in Amsterdam came just days after Fifa's president Sepp Blatter caused uproar with comments that any racial incidents on the field could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match.
Cruyff has had a troubled relationship with Van Gaal since the latter's time as coach at Barcelona, the Spanish club where Cruyff remains an influential figure. Despite that history, four of the five members of the Ajax board decided last week, without consulting Cruyff, to appoint Van Gaal.
The club's members will now probably have to decide at a meeting next week whether to support Cruyff or the other four board members.
Cruyff was appointed earlier this year and asked to help revamp the famous Ajax youth academy, which over the years has churned out talents such as Wesley Sneijder, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert. Cruyff has installed former players, including Bergkamp and Wim Jonk, to coach the youngsters in the slick-passing Ajax style.
If Cruyff is forced out of the club – which has won the Dutch league title a record 30 times and the European Cup four times – there are fears that Bergkamp and Jonk could also leave. But the current Ajax coach Frank de Boer has declined to take sides in the dispute and looks set to stay.
One thing appears clear: Cruyff will no longer work with the other board members. "I want nothing more to do with those people," he wrote.