The Ajax legend's pre-match system stars in the latest of our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief
|"Once I’ve gone through with my little system before the game, my mind is fully focused on what we have to do to be successful on the pitch"
Yet as an Ajax player, Cruyff followed a bizarre routine at the start of matches which he would never have tolerated as a coach. Shortly before kick off, he’d slap goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach, and then spit his chewing gum into the opposition half. “It’s odd I know, but it seems to work for me,” he claimed in 1972. “Once I’ve gone through with my little system before the game, my mind is fully focused on what we have to do to be successful on the pitch." Disaster struck shortly before the 1969 European Cup Final though.
Keeper Bals received his customary smack in the guts, but as Cruyff prepared to gob out his gum, he realised that pre match nerves had got the better of him, and he’d forgotten to put some in his mouth. Ajax – who’d become the first Dutch team to appear in a major European Final – got thrashed 4-1.
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