China’s netizens collectively respond to the news that Dutch soccer legend Cruyff (克鲁伊夫, Kèlǔyīfū) has died. Many people react with disbelief: “How is this possible? He was so young!” Others respond by posting candles and crying emoticons for what some call the “emperor of soccer”.
“The world’s most legendary number 14 has died,” one Chinese student writes. The reactions to Cruyff’s death on Chinese social media come in great numbers. Just an hour after news of his death came out, over 3.1 million Chinese Weibo users read about Cruyff’s passing, and commented on it and shared it.
Overall, the Cruyff’s Chinese fans express their grief with his death and their respect for his career: “The soccer world has lost its godfather, but your philosophy remains. Don’t forget to wear your soccer shoes in heaven. I salute you,” one fan says.
“Windmills, tulips and Cruyff”
Cruyff enjoyed great popularity in China. As many Dutch who have been to China will know, the standard reply after telling Chinese taxi drivers where you are from will be: “Holland? I know Holland! Windmills, tulips and Cruyff!”
One Chinese netizen writes in response to his death: “I have never actually seen Cruyff play, but when I was young and into soccer, stories about the legendary Cruyff were everywhere. He is the reason why Chinese people started to love Dutch soccer.”
Johan Cruyff gained fame as a forward with Ajax and Barcelona. He became European footballer of the year three times, and won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax from 1971. News of Cruyff suffering from lung cancer came out in October last year.
“Your achievements have deeply influenced the soccer community”
The news of Cruyff’s death was reported by different Chinese state media, including CCTV and People’s Daily. Several online soccer pages dedicate multiple posts to the life and career of the soccer star. Under the hashtag of “Cruyff passed away” (#克鲁伊夫逝世#), Cruyff’s Chinese fans share pictures and mainly respond with digital candles and digital tears on China’s social media platform Sina Weibo.
One football player writes on Weibo: “Cruyff is gone. Farewell, Godfather. I am not of your generation, but your past achievements and contributions have deeply influenced the soccer community and its fans. I am one of those fans who you’ve had a great impact on. I am a loyal Barcelona fan, and for me, you are the initiator of the Barcelona style. I hope you’ll find peace in heaven.”
“You will now join the heaven team”
On online message board Zhihu, Chinese netizens respond on an old thread that evaluates the football talent of Cruyff: “Needless to say, he was great,” one Zhihu users says: “The best way to describe or evaluate him is as a football angel. What Michael Jordan is to basketball, is what Cruyff was to soccer.”
“Cruyff, founder of the total soccer strategy, Godfather of Barcelona, Flying Dutchman – you were not just king of the ball, you were more than king of the ball. The 68-year old football talent. Oh, my perfection and humour are gone now that you’re no longer here,” one netizen named Robert writes with crying emoticons.
“A flying star like you will be home in heaven,” one netizen says. Another Weibo user also writes a tearful goodbye: “Farewell, emperor of football. You will now join the heaven team.”
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