In 1968, the greatest innovator in the history of soccer married the love of his life and the pair remained happy until his passing in 2016. One of the true legends of soccer, Johan Cruyff, died on March 24 after a battle with cancer. He’s survived by his wife, Danny, and their three children, Chantal, 46, Susila, 44, and soccer player, Jordi, 42.
The Dutch legend was known for his longwinded and sometimes insightful rants about soccer, one feature on his wife said that she was “the only person who can stop him talking.”
You can watch rare footage of Johan and Danny’s nuptials above.
Here’s what you need to know about the love of Cruyff’s life:
1. She Maintained a Huge Influence Over Her Husband’s Soccer Career; Allegedly Stopping Him From Playing in the 1978 World Cup
Johan maintained throughout his life that he ran every soccer decision by his wife. One of the great myths in the history of soccer is why Johan, then one of the great players in world soccer, decided to not play in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. At the time, the legend said that he had opted not to play, retiring from international soccer in October 1977, because of the military junta in Argentina.
In 2008 however, Johan came forward and said that his real reason for not playing was because of his family. He told Antoni Bassas of Catalunya Radio, “To play a World Cup you have to be 200% okay, there are moments when there are other values in life.” Despite hit absence, the Dutch team made it to the final where they were beaten in controversial circumstances by Argentina.
During the 1974 World Cup, Cruyff and his teammates were photographed by the pool at their German hotel with a group of women. This came just after Holland had defeated Brazil in World Cup semi final. The rumor states that the Dutch legend was on the phone to Danny all night before the final trying to convince her that nothing untoward had happened.
It was Cruyff’s former Barcelona team mate Carles Rexach who said in his 2008 autobiography that the Dutch legend had been asked not to play in 1978 by his wife. Rexach also blamed Danny for Holland not qualifying for the 1970 World Cup. He said in his book that Cruyff had agreed to take his wife on a shopping trip to Milan just prior to a qualifier with Bulgaria. When the legend returned, he was dropped after failing to arrive back on time.
A 2008 feature from ESPN on Cruyff discusses how he had been slated to takeover as Dutch national team coach prior to the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. The piece says that Danny forbade him from taking the job following his 1991 heart surgery. She feared the job would create too much stress for her husband.
2. In 1977, Johan & Danny Were Tied Up & Held Hostage Inside of Their Barcelona Home
A 2014 feature on Danny’s son, Jordi, from soccer bible FourFourTwo, detailed the attempted kidnapping that the family was subjected to in their Barcelona apartment in 1977. The piece reads, “Johan and Danny were tied up in front of their children and a gun was held to Johan’s head.”
It adds, that for months afterwards, the family were subjected to a police escort wherever they went. Johan said in 2008, “The children were going to school accompanied by the police. The police slept in our house for three or four months. I was going to matches with a bodyguard. All these things change your point of view towards many things. There are moments in life in which there are other values.”
Dutch writer Simon Kuper noted that the Cruyff family lived in Barcelona for most of their lives, Kuper says, “the Cruyffs are as good as Catalan.”
Johan told Catalunya Radio in 2008, “We wanted to stop this and be a little more sensible. It was the moment to leave football and I couldn’t play in the World Cup after this.”
The Guardian reported in 2008 that the kidnap attempt was the reason Johan and his family decided to leave Barcelona. They would return in 1988 when Johan was appointed head coach of Barca.
3. Her Father Was Johan’s Agent & an Accused Member of the Nazi’s Secret Police
Danny’s father was Dutch businessman Cor Coster who also happened to be Johan’s agent. Cor is credited with engineering Johan’s move to Barcelona in 1973, according to an article in Voetbal International.
In Martin Fox’s 1971 book on Ajax Amsterdam, it says that Cor was a revolutionary agent at the time, demanding more money from newspapers for interviews with his client, something that had been unheard of at the time. The relationship between the pair was not perfect however, Fox writes, “Admittedly Cor Coster has made mistakes in his ignorance. He wrapped his intentions not always smart to thereby give opponents the chance of him (and Cruyff) set a bad light. Furthermore, a lack of tact had Coster for the disadvantage that he people soon took against him.”
Throughout his public life, Cor was an accused member of the Nazi secret police, the SS. He was never prosecuted for membership. An investigation did find that he did “forced labor” for the Nazis in Latvia, according to an investigative piece by Dutch broadsheet De Telegraaf.
Cor Coster passed away in 2008 after a battle with cancer.
4. When Johan Met Danny, He Was Penniless But She Loved Him Anyway
In Martin Fox’s book, it details that when Johan met Danny, he was a junior player with no money. Despite this, he booked out an entire wing of the Amsterdam Hilton hotel for his nuptials. It also notes that Johan had to go into debt just to live. His father-in-law is quoted in the book saying, “When Johan got married he was penniless. In fact, he had to go into debt to be able to live in a decent house.”
Their son, Jordi, was born via Ceasarean section, according to FourFourTwo, in 1974, in order to coincide with some time off that Johan had been given by Barcelona.
5. There Has Been No Confirmation About When Johan Cruyff’s Funeral Will Be Held
Johan’s death was announced in a statement on his official website, it read, “On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer. It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.” There was no mention of when or where the legend’s funeral will take place.