‘I laughed then and I laugh now’ – Jan Olsson still mesmerised by Cruyff turn

Jan Olsson still cannot help but laugh when he watches footage of himself becoming the first and best-documented victim of the Cruyff turn.

The Sweden defender was the man left bamboozled by Johan Cruyff’s brilliant dummy at the 1974 World Cup finals, which swiftly entered into football folklore and left he and his team-mates shaking their heads in admiration at what they had witnessed.

Cruyff’s mesmeric turn – the Holland forward feigned to go one way, but twisted the other, leaving a baffled Olsson staring into space – at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund stunned onlookers and wrote a new chapter in the game’s history.


The Group Three match finished 0-0, but the ‘Cruyff turn’ would become a defining image of the 1970s Dutch side, which ultimately lost to hosts West Germany in the final of that tournament, but is still considered one of the most exciting and inventive teams of all time.

Olsson was 32 when he was deceived by Cruyff’s moment of magic and, despite the passage of time since, his memories of that day remained as acute as ever when asked to recall them after the Dutch master’s death at the age of 68 four years ago.

“My team-mates after the game, we looked at each other, they started to laugh and I did the same,” Olsson told the PA news agency. “I laughed then and I laugh now.

“It was very funny. He was a world-class player. I did my best, but I was not a world-class player.


“The players in my team, they all laughed because they know me – we laughed together in the changing room because everyone saw what a player he was. What more could we do?”

News of Cruyff’s death after a battle with cancer inevitably sparked a flood of social media clips featuring that moment.

Olsson has seen it back many times over the years, but admits he is still left surprised.

He said: “I do not understand how he did it. It was a fantastic sequence.

Soccer – International Friendly – England v Sweden – Sweden Training – New Beckenham, London
Jan Olsson (front row, far right) with the Sweden squad ahead of a friendly against England (PA)

“I thought I was going to take the ball. I still cannot understand. Now when I see the video, every time, I think I have got the ball.

“When he is about to kick the ball, I am sure I am going to take it, but every time he surprises me. I loved everything about this moment.”

A goalless draw was an excellent result for Sweden, who went on to qualify in second place from the group before losing in the next round.

Olsson, however, still felt compelled to congratulate Cruyff at the full-time whistle.


“After the game, I thanked him for the match and said congratulations,” he said. “Even though it was 0-0, it was right to say congratulations.”

It was the first of four times Olsson faced Cruyff, another meeting coming later in 1974 when Holland thrashed Sweden 5-1 in Stockholm and Cruyff scored the opening goal.

The other two occasions were at club level, with Olsson playing for Swedish side Atvidabergs against Barcelona in the European Cup, but he never forgot his first encounter.

He said: “After that first time, every moment he got the ball I thought, ‘Please, don’t do it again.

Holland star Johan Cruyff in his famous number 14 shirt at the 1974 World Cup finals
Holland star Johan Cruyff in his famous number 14 shirt at the 1974 World Cup finals (PA)

“I think I knew at the time it would become a famous moment. Many people after tell me, ‘Do it with me, the sequence with Johan Cruyff’.

“Many people say that and I do the same because I am very proud to have been there. My parents remembered this sequence.

“I played football at the top for 18 years and never experienced anything like it.”

Olsson admits he wishes now he had asked for Cruyff’s shirt, but he kept no other memorabilia from the game.


“I don’t have any photos or anything. I don’t want them,” he said. “I remember everything in my heart. Everything from that match is in my mind and my heart.

“I have the memory. It is a moment I remember every day. Every day I think about football, I think about Johan Cruyff.

“I had the pleasure to meet him – a great player, great trainer, great gentleman, I think he had everything.”