Johan Cruyff: Why the Dutch master wore the famous number 14 shirt

Cruyff upset the Dutch authorities with his choice

Tom Sheen
Thursday 24 March 2016 15:03
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Johan Cruyff has become synonymous with the shirt number 14.

Like Pele and Diego Maradona with No 10, or Alan Shearer with No 9, it's hard to imagine the Netherlands, Ajax and Barcelona legend turning out in any other number.

But for the first six seasons of his career - campaigns that brought four Eredivisie titles and two KNVB Cups as well as a number of individual accolades - the No 14 was not in Cruyff's thinking.

In fact, he turned out in the No 9 shirt between 1964 and 1970, when football authorities insisted that players starting the game wore 1-11.

It was only by sheer chance that he ever wound up wearing the now iconic No 14 shirt.

Before a game against rivals PSV Eindhoven on 30 October 1970, team-mate Gerrie Muhren couldn't find his usual shirt, the No 7. Cruyff offered his usual shirt, the No 9, to Muhren and went to the basket of spare shirts, taking out the one on the top.

It happened to be the No 14.

Ajax won the game 1-0 and, as Muhren recalled to Voteball International, Cruyff insisted they keep the same numbers in the next game, much to the disdain of the Dutch Football association.

"Gerrie, PSV went so well, let's just play with the same numbers," Cruyff said.

From that day, Cruyff wore the No 14, where possible, throughout his career, although at Barcelona he was more often seen in his old No 9 shirt.

Johan Cruyff 1947-2016

His superstition even superceeded the famous 'Total Football' Dutch side of the 1974 World Cup.

Rinus Michels' squad were assigned shirt numbers alphabetically, leading to a somewhat odd covering of players.

Forward Ruud Geels ended up with the No 1 shirt and goalkeeper Jan Jongloed the No 8.

Cruyff, however, was allowed to keep his trademark No 14 - he would have been No 1, of course.

At the same tournament Cruyff made an even stranger kit decision. The Netherlands were decked out in Adidas gear but Cruyff had a sponsorship deal with Puma. Rather than turn out in the three stripes, the Dutch FA allowed Cruyff to turn out in a specially modified kit that only featured two stripes.

Ajax retired the No 14 shirt from service in 2007.

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