Today’s Opinion: Cruijff Court rules

POSTED: 04/17/11 9:32 PM

Johan Cruijff is the best soccer player the Netherlands has ever had. Now, in his sixties, Cruijff is still a major force at Ajax Amsterdam, the club he made a household name with his phenomenal actions on the pitch.

But Cruijff has also always been a true ambassador of his sport. Dubbed the Oracle of De Meer for his incomprehensible statements to reporters during his active career and El Salvador (The Savior) during his tenure at Barcelona, the Cruijff Foundation takes the sports back to its founder’s roots: neighborhood soccer fields.

During the Kingdom games in 2005, then State Secretary of Sports Clémence Ross-Van Dorp donated a Cruijff Court to each island in the Netherlands Antilles. In November 2007, baseball legend Hamilton Richardson and Johan Cruijff opened the court that is located in Belvedere.

Interestingly, Cruijff wrote fourteen rules for the courts that bear his name. They are interesting and to the point. Recently, a columnist for the Volkskrant wrote that these rules ought to be nailed to the wall in every classroom in the Netherlands.

The Cruijff Court in Belvedere is, after it’s inauguration three-and-a-half years ago still in a more or less pristine condition. It certainly looks better then the Belvedere Community Park located no more than two hundred meters away from the Cruijff Court: that place oozes neglect, but maybe that is because the park features real grass and Cruijff nifty soccer field is artificial.

Anyway, the one thing we noticed is sorely missing in Belvedere is a display with the fourteen Cruijff Court rules. Fourteen is not a random number: soccer lovers know that this was the number on Cruijff’s shirt.

The Volkskrant columnist, Ferry Haan, noticed something about the Cruijff Courts in the Netherlands: they stay in one piece and stay free of vandalism and senseless destruction. They always look like they were built yesterday, Haan wrote. They are used what they were meant for: playing soccer. The fences around the fields are not idiot proof, but nobody gets it in his head to demolish them.

The Cruijff Courts in the Netherlands feature a display with the fourteen rules. The fact that this is missing in Belvedere does not seem to make any difference because, as we pointed out, the place is still in one piece, and we all know that sometimes bad things happen in that exact neighborhood. On the adjoining basketball court (a donation from the Windward Islands Bank), 22-year-old Otmar Leonard was stabbed to death on July 14 of last year. In January, the Court in First Instance acquitted a 17-year-old boy who was charged with the stabbing.

Maybe the Cruijff Court rules could still have an effect in Belvedere. In the Netherlands, Ferry Haan promotes to display these rules in every class room. We’d go one step further and recommend to make the Cruijff rules part of our landscape by setting up bill boards in every neighborhood on the island. If its content gets through to one youngster in each neighborhood, St. Maarten would already be a better place.

So why are these rules working so well? Haan wrote that they are visible. Players know the rules and if they forget, pointing to the display is enough to remember them. Children, and in general young people looking to find their place in this world, love rules – believe it or not. What they abhor is uncertainty and confusion.

Haan points out that these rules are not visible in school buildings. We’d like to add: in our communities they aren’t visible either. Ah, sure, most people will remember that they have to drive on the right hand side of the road, and that they have to stop before a red traffic light, they may even remember that they have to wear a safety belt and that talking on the phone while driving a car is not allowed.

But there we arrive already in reasonably obscure territory. Within schools, Haan wrote, students and teachers are on their own when it comes to finding out the rules. There are of course school rules but nobody knows them by heart, and nobody is walking around with them.

Am I allowed to wear a cap? Is it okay if I keep my coat on? Am I allowed to use my MP3-player? When is it okay to go to the bathroom? Those and a myriad of other questions are part of everyday life in schools, but also elsewhere in society. Is it okay to pump up the music to excruciating levels? Why am I not allowed to tint my car windows? Is smoking a joint really illegal here? Do I have to stop when a pedestrian wants to cross the road? And so on.

Haan notes that the main characteristic of a troublesome student is that he or she is constantly looking for new limits. When the rules are unclear, they’re only able to discover those limits via experiments. The problem is the same for teachers, especially if one teacher allows students, for instance, to keep their coats on, while the next one specifically forbids it.

Here are the Cruijff Court rules. Adaptations for non-sport situations are easy to come up with.

  1. Team player. “Alone you cannot achieve anything; you have to do it together.”
  2. Responsibility. “Take good care of what you get and what you are allowed to use.”
  3. Respect. “Show respect for the other.”
  4. Integration. “Involve others in your activities.”
  5. Initiative. “Dare to do something new.”
  6. Coaching. “In a team you always have to help each other.”
  7. Personality. “Be who you are.”
  8. Social involvement. “Important in sports, but also outside of it.”
  9. Technique. “The basis.”

10.  Tactic. “Know what you are doing.”

11.  Development. “Sports develop body and soul.”

12.  Learning. “Try to learn something new every day.”

13.  Play together. “An essential part of the game.”

14.  Creativity. “The beauty of the sport.”

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