Johan Cruyff: A different stripe

The player’s refusal to bow to corporate pressure led to a unique world cup jersey

by David Yaffe-Bellany

The 1974 World Cup final between the Netherlands and West Germany was not just a clash of diametrically opposed soccer philosophies. It was also the meeting of two teams bedecked in Adidas-sponsored uniforms. Two teams, that is, minus one stubborn Dutchman.

Johan Cruyff was under contract with Puma in a deal that prohibited him from promoting other sports brands. As the tournament approached, Cruyff flatly refused to wear Adidas’s trademark three black stripes on his №14 jersey. The Netherlands national soccer association had little choice but to honor the wishes of the world’s best player, and Dutch officials eventually persuaded Adidas to design a separate jersey just for Cruyff: two stripes running along the sleeves, not three.

The decades-old dispute generated fresh controversy in May 2014, when Cruyff complained in a column for the Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf that Adidas had recently threatened to sue his sportswear company, Cruyff Classics, unless it removed replicas of the now legendary World Cup jersey from its inventory. “Those two stripes belong to me,” Cruyff wrote. “No one thinks this shirt is an Adidas jersey.”

Adidas and Cruyff Classics did not respond to requests for comment. The 1974 jersey is still available in the Cruyff Classics online shop. The stubborn Dutchman got his way again.