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Jordi Cruyff on his father Johan Cruyff: growing up and as a football coach

Andy Mitten has conducted many interviews with Jordi Cruyff over the years. Here we collate some of Cruyff's best memories of his father, Johan, who died on Thursday at the age of 68.

"My birth date was decided because of a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona game," Jordi Cruyff explained, sitting in a Barcelona cafe not far from the family home near the Camp Nou.

"My mum wanted to have me by Caesarean section in Amsterdam by the same doctor who delivered my sisters. I was due to be born the week of the game, but Barca's coach, Rinus Michels, told my dad that he had to play in Madrid as they were chasing a first league title in 14 years.

"Rinus then decided that I could also be born before the game and on his birthday, Feb. 9, 1974."

Jordi was duly born in Amsterdam, but there were further complications. The Catalan language was outlawed by General Franco, who ruled Spain at the time, and Jordi was a Catalan name -- the name of their patron saint.

The streetwise Johan had always grasped Barca's political dimension. He knew that the name Jordi was outlawed, but Franco's influence didn't extend to the Netherlands, so his son was named Jordi. Johan soon tried to register the boy with the Catalan authorities, but the officials refused.

Jordi Cruyff and Johan Cruyff in action for Manchester United and Netherlands.

"My dad said: 'My son has a Dutch passport, I can call him what I like and his name is Jordi,'" he said.

"They replied: 'That is illegal, it has to be the Spanish version, Jorge.'

"Then my dad said: 'I'm not going to make a scandal, but tell your bosses it will become a scandal.' They had to accept me because I was Dutch."

Jordi thus became the first "legal" Jordi in decades, a gesture that sealed Johan's place in Catalan hearts. It also helped that he was man of the match as Barca slaughtered Madrid 5-0 away in that crucial Clasico -- a night which is still known as "the black night" by Madrilenos -- and pushed them towards the title.

Unlike Barca, Johan was used to success, he'd won three successive European Cups with Ajax before joining the Catalans for £1 million.

Jordi was a chubby baby in a wealthy home in Barcelona's Zona Alta on the foothills at the back of the city where the family still lives. Johan's legend grew at the 1974 World Cup finals as the Rinus Michels coached Dutch team changed football's landscape with their "Total Football."

"As a kid, I saw that people came up to my dad and asked him to write on paper all the time, but after a while I realised that he was very respected and important," Jordi said.

Jordi describes his childhood as being "full of affection." He admits he was often stubborn, saying: "When people spoke Spanish to me I replied in Dutch. And when I went to the Netherlands I spoke Spanish."

Being Johan's son meant other restrictions.

"I had a childhood full of affection, but I wasn't allowed to sleepover at friends' houses after my dad had been forced to miss the 1978 World Cup finals," he added. "I never knew why, until much later."

Cruyff's absence from those finals in Argentina was a talking point even bigger than the actions of the army leaders presiding over Argentina at the time. Speculation was rife that the forward did not get on with the then Dutch coach, Ernst Happel, while others claimed Cruyff and his wife were making a stance against the human rights issues within Argentina under the brutal regime of Jorge Videla. Netherlands lost 3-1 to the host nation in the final in Buenos Aires after extra time.

"My dad never spoke about what happened until recently," Jordi said.

Thirty years later, Johan revealed the shocking truth about why he made his decision: "To play a World Cup you have to be 200 percent. Someone came and pointed a rifle at my head and tied up my wife while the children were in the flat.

"There are times when there are more important things in life. For four months my home was watched by the police and my children had to be protected when they went to school."

The Cruyffs moved to Los Angeles in 1979 when Johan signed for the Aztecs, before going to Washington a year later.

"I loved the shirts which the NASL teams wore and still collect them to this day," Jordi added. "But we moved back to the Netherlands where dad played for Ajax for two years. Then he joined Feyenoord, which really pissed everyone off at Ajax. I knew that because I played at Ajax."

Jordi Cruyff and Johan Cruyff at Barcelona in 1995.

Johan had been a technical advisor to the Ajax coach as well as a player and had restructured Ajax's youth system, so that every youth team had to play in the same formation as the first team, and youth coaches had to develop players rather than win leagues. Jordi was sometimes asked to play in defence, to learn how defenders think. To this day, Ajax's youth system operates on Cruyff's lines.

"My dad still came to watch me play, which was a little bit strange," Jordi said. "It's not the done thing to move from Ajax to Feyenoord, like it's not to go from Barca to Madrid or [Manchester] United to Liverpool."

When Johan moved back to Barcelona to manage the Catalans, Jordi followed too.

"When I broke into the Barcelona squad, my dad was coach," Jordi said. "His only advice was: 'See, hear and don't speak.' In other words he was telling me not to talk to him about what other players were saying. He wanted me to work my balls off and see how far I went. I knew that some players would be pissed off if I made the squad and they didn't, but only once did I see anything.

"I went into the showers after training one say and two players -- [Hristov] Stoichkov and [Txiki] Begiristain [Man City's current director of football] -- were having a chat. I saw one give the signal to the other to be quiet. Eventually, I said: 'Look, if you have a problem go and speak to him, it's nothing to do with me.'

"I had to be ultra careful. If I was mates with a player then we couldn't be seen socialising in public, because the media would have thought that the player was trying to get in my -- and therefore my dad's -- good books. It wasn't an easy position because if a player is not playing, they will search for any excuse.

"The whole thing actually changed my personality. I used to be very extrovert, but I became quiet, serious and I would retreat inside myself.

"On the training field, if I made a mistake then my father would have a go at me more than anyone else. He wanted to show that he wasn't doing me any favours. I think the players respected that, but they also felt sorry for me because my father could be really mean, he could kill any player with his put downs.

"My dad and I wouldn't speak about football at home. Mum would ask me how things were, but never in front of dad. She wanted me to go on loan from Barca. She was already suffering when she went to games because my father was under pressure. She suffered even more when she watched her son play for a team managed by her husband."

Jordi would move to Manchester United in 1996, the same year Johan left Barca.

"When I joined Manchester United, I went with my dad to pick Sir Alex Ferguson up at the airport and returned to my parents' house, where I was living," Jordi said.

"My mother made drinks and went to do her things, while my father and I talked to United. Ferguson reassured us and said that he would take personal care of me, almost like a son. He explained that a lot of young players were coming through the ranks and that joining United would be the right step.

"I liked the idea of playing for a manager who had been at a club a long time. United had a young team and, aged 21, I thought I could fit in. Ferguson told my father: 'I'll take good care of your son.' My father liked that.

"The contract was good and Ferguson had got under my skin. United left for the airport. When they'd gone, my father and I knew that United was the right choice. But it still surprised me when he advised me to join United, not Ajax -- he new everyone at Ajax and people would have watched out for me."

Jordi is now excelling as sporting director of Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Israel, having followed his father's footsteps into coaching and management. At times it has not been easy being the son of a legend, but his deep love and respect for his father was obvious throughout our conversations.

A few days ago he tweeted this message: "In Spain it's father's day. Thanks for being who you are and teaching me life's values, my role model."

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.

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