Johan Cruyff shed light on his decision to not attend the 1978 FIFA World Cup™ in Argentina, four years after leading the Netherlands to the final in West Germany, claiming he was kidnapped and held at gunpoint.
Cruyff, considered by many to be the best European footballer of all-time, explained to Radio Catalunya on Wednesday that the attempt occurred in Barcelona in 1977. "I had a rifle at my head, I was tied up, my wife tied up, the children were in the apartment in Barcelona," he said.
The Dutch, even without their talisman, managed to reach their second consecutive final where they lost after extra-time to the hosts. The former Barcelona and Ajax idol's absence, arguably in the prime of his career, was a curiosity among fans and the watching world.
Popular explanations for his decision not to go to those finals tended to revolve around Cruyff's reluctance to lend propaganda to the military regime then in power in Argentina, but his comments this week clarified the situation considerably.
"To play a World Cup you have to be 200 per cent ," Cruyff added about his decision to retire from international football in 1977 at age 30. "There are moments when there are other values in life."
The Dutchman did not say how the stand-off with the kidnappers ended, but his home was under police protection for the following months and his children received police escorts to and from school.
In 1979 Cruyff left European football for stints with the LA Aztecs and Washington Diplomats in the now-defunct North American Soccer League in the United States. He returned to Europe with Ajax, Levante and a controversial last stand at Ajax's archrivals Feyenoord before hanging up his boots in 1984.
He continues to occupy an advisor's role at Barcelona and has held the coaching reins for Ajax (1986 to 1988) and the Blaugrana from 1988 to 1996.