Video tribute: Former LA Aztecs NASL MVP, Dutch Total Football maestro Johan Cruyff dies age 68

FILE - In This June 19, 1974 file photo, Netherlands Johan Cruyff, left, dodges the tackle from Sweden's Kent Karlsson during a World Cup soccer match  in Dortmund, Germany. Dutch soccer great Johan Cruyff, who revolutionized the game with the concept of 'Total Football,' died Thursday March 24, 2016. He was 68. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – In This June 19, 1974 file photo, Netherlands Johan Cruyff, left, dodges the tackle from Sweden’s Kent Karlsson during a World Cup soccer match in Dortmund, Germany. Dutch soccer great Johan Cruyff, who revolutionized the game with the concept of ‘Total Football,’ died Thursday March 24, 2016. He was 68. (AP Photo/File)

Johann Cruyff, who spent one season with the North American Soccer League’s LA Aztecs in 1979, and was known as the star of perhaps the best national team never to win a World Cup in the 1970s — the Netherlands — has died at age 68.

A heavy smoker in his younger days, Cruyff lost a long battle against lung cancer.

Aztecs attendance peaked during Cruyff’s long year with the club, according to the Aztecs Wikipedia entry.

Cruyff was part of the versatile Dutch team that prompted the term total football, such was their silky teamwork, and starred for manager Rinus Michels in a starting XI that included such greats as Johan Neeskens (his son, John Neeskens, just joined LA Galaxy II) Johnny Rep and Rob Rensenbrink.

He also played a major role as a Barcelona player and coach in making the club what it is today

Tributes, reaction and video after the jump.

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Nelson Mandela: Friend of soccer who used the power of sport to change a nation

mandelacupIt seems somehow apt that on the eve of the 2014 World Cup draw that the man who did much to bring the preceding one to his homeland has died at the age of 95.

Mandela, as was pointed out in this eloquent column, understood the positive influence of sport on wider society:

“Sport,” he said, “has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

Much, it should be said, as Mandela did himself.

RIP, Madiba.

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A Life Well Lived

When I worked at the L.A. Times’ Ventura County Bureau, every Sunday the reporter on duty was required to scour the death notices, call a relative of the deceased and write an obituary about a “regular” human being.

It was a twist on the old journalism class assignment of interviewing a person at random and writing a profile of them on the theory that everyone has a story that needs to be told. If memory serves, it was based/ripped off from the N.Y. Times, which at one time ran a regular, similar feature called “A Life Well Lived.”

I was reminded of this Saturday when my wife read an unusually long paid obituary in the Daily Breeze about 28-year-old Devon Markert, a Long Beach resident and teacher at Torrance Adult School who died earlier this month of brain cancer after her fourth surgery.

Her obituary read in part:

“She was an avid soccer player throughout her childhood and adolescence, playing on competitive traveling teams and on the 1996 Central California State Championship Buchanan High School team. She credited soccer with giving her an identity, the opportunity to develop and sustain close relations, and the strength to face tough situations with hope and confidence. She stated in a draft of her memoirs: Joining the soccer team was the single most important decision of my life. Soccer helped me forge my identity as a scholar-athlete and kept me distracted when I needed a distraction. I don’t know if I was always good, but I turned into a solid player. The lessons I learned through my various soccer teams and the relationships I made on and off the soccer field were important character-building experiences that continue to carry me through the tough times of today.”

A life well lived indeed.

Devon Markert’s obituary is here.

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