Fans flock to Barcelona to remember Cruyff

Supporters clad in Barcelona's colours embrace while paying tribute to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who won multiple honours with the Catalonian side as player and later, manager.
Supporters clad in Barcelona's colours embrace while paying tribute to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who won multiple honours with the Catalonian side as player and later, manager. PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Thousands of Barcelona fans paid tribute to former player and manager Johan Cruyff in a memorial space set up inside the Spanish club's Camp Nou stadium on Saturday.

The eulogies for the Dutch legend, who died from lung cancer last Thursday at the age of 68, were led after a minute's silence by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Standing in front of a giant photo of a smiling Cruyff, he said it was a sad day not only for everyone who loved Barcelona, but also for everyone who loved football.

"In agreement with the Cruyff family we set up this memorial to allow everyone to express their feelings and say a final farewell to this legend," he said.

Hundreds of people of different nationalities, many in tears, filed past the memorial bedecked with flags and bouquets of red roses, to sign a condolence book.

"Johan Cruyff came to Barcelona when Barcelona was winning nothing," said one of them, Ignace Mosengo, a 45-year-old from Congo on holiday with his wife.

"He gave them a new style of game, with intricate passing, to keep possession of the ball. What we admire in the current Barcelona team all harks back to him."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont paid their respects along with the fans.

The memorial will remain in place until tomorrow evening with Barcelona observing a period of mourning until April 2. The club said more than 10,000 people had visited, with the Cruyff family expected tomorrow.

Fans as well as tourists had already placed tributes, including roses and lollipops, at the entrance to the Camp Nou since Friday.

Cruyff often patrolled the touchline sucking on a lollipop, which became his prop after he stopped smoking cigarettes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Fans flock to Barcelona to remember Cruyff'. Print Edition | Subscribe