Hundreds of Dutch soccer fans on Sunday paid an emotional tribute to the late Johan Cruyff, as they marched between the former and current Ajax stadiums in Amsterdam.
“Johan rest in peace,” proclaimed a large black banner bearing a picture of the Amsterdam boy, who rose to become one of soccer’s greatest players, carried at the front of the procession.
The large crowd estimated at around 1,500 people sang songs in praise of their hero as they walked from De Meer Stadion, the former home of Ajax, to the bigger 53,00-capacity stadium Amsterdam ArenA.
Many of them were wearing the number 14 shirt which was Cruyff’s tag during his years with the team.
Cruyff died aged 68 on March 24 after a brief struggle with cancer, triggering a global outpouring of mourning for a man recognized as having left a huge footballing legacy.
“It is wonderful that so many people have joined in, it’s very special,” said Sjaak Swart, a former Ajax forward who played a record 600 games with the club.
Cruyff “deserves it more than anyone else. It is awful that he has died from this terrible disease. We should make it a day to remember,” Swart added.
The march came before a match between Ajax and FC Zwolle, which kicked off later after a minute’s silence. And in the 14th minute, a round of applause thundered around the stadium.
Supporters in the stands held up colored pieces of paper to spell out in giant letters “1947-2016” as well as Cruyff’s name, while a giant picture of the late player in his number 14 shirt was unfurled over the crowd.
Cruyff’s son, Jordi, as well as about 150 former players from the Amsterdam club attended the game, Dutch media reported.
Manager Frank de Boer later presented Jordi Cruyff with a number 14 shirt, after Ajax beat FC Zwolle 3-0.
Outside Cruyff’s former home in the Amsterdam district of Betondorp, fans also earlier set off a cascade of red fireworks.
Having led Ajax to the European Cup three times in 1971, 1972 and 1973, Cruyff also took the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final where despite losing 2-1 the Dutch won admirers the world over.
About 90,000 Barcelona fans on Saturday also took part in a spectacular pre-match display to honor Cruyff — a former player and coach with the Spanish team.
The display ahead of the El Clasico against Real Madrid read “Thank you Johan” alongside a Barca jersey with the number 14 the Dutchman once wore.
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