Of course, this was Cruyff’s fault, but Van Beveren himself was also difficult

Would we have been world champions with Jan van Beveren in goal? It is a frequently asked question among older football fans. According to many, Jan Jongblood was responsible for losing the 1974 World Cup final. Two goals from West Germany stunned him. And in the final of 1978, although he was not guilty, he had no chance of scoring the three Argentine goals.

No, then Jan van Beveren. The Sparta and later PSV goalkeeper dived for every ball, if necessary rose sideways to one side to catch the ball from the top corner on the other side. “The Beef”, also known as “The Float”. At first with bare hands, later with woolen mittens. A tall goalkeeper for whom the audience – many women, noticeably – went onto the field. Another title: “The Butterfly at Sixteen.”

Van Beveren, who made his debut in 1967, stopped in 1977 for a paltry 32 caps. He won the UEFA Cup, two KNVB Championship Cups and three national titles with PSV. But he never participated in a European Championship or a World Cup. Partly because of injuries, partly because of disagreements with his executioner Johan Cruyff, who played only 43 caps due to a lack of interest, looking after interests or often faking injuries.

In his dense biography Van Beveren: The Master of Complex Wonders Ruud Duvendans paints a fairly complete picture of the tragic sporting life of the late Jan van Beveren, who would have turned 75 this month. About his exciting talent, his complex personality, his dramatic relationship with Cruyff, and his trip to the United States.

Whoever reads the book understands better why he did not live up to his name and fame. The image of perpetrator Cruyff and victim Van Beveren was marked by Doevendans. He was a nail-biter who, even when Cruyff wasn’t around, maintained anything but a flawless finish.

‘Great sense of justice’

Born in Amsterdam, they have their hearts on their sleeves. The self-confident and money-hungry Cruijff who rallied the press, the public and his teammates – not forgetting the many (national) coaches – against the seemingly arrogant but very insecure Van Beveren. The Sparta and later PSV goalkeeper was also busy making money all his life. His transfer from Rotterdam West to Eindhoven in 1970 involved a million and a half guilders – he was then the most expensive goalkeeper in the world and made more money than Cruyff at the time.

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In 1974 there was the first serious collision, when the almost rehabilitated goalkeeper was subjected to grueling training by national coach Rinus Michels (read: Cruijff) a few weeks before the World Cup at Zester Woods. As a result, his knee problems began to recur.

There was also a behind-the-scenes business dispute. Van Beveren denounced Cruyff’s preferential treatment – he also received daily cash from the KNVB on the days he was still at Barcelona. Cruyff told Michaels: “We have to get rid of this guy, he’s very difficult, he’s become very dangerous”. Exit Van Beveren.

Michels and Cruyff were thus able to put the less talented but “play along” Jan Jongbloed of FC Amsterdam in goal. As a glorious libero, he was a better fit for the Orange’s all-around football than Van Beveren, who was wrongly named line guard. With high balls gracefully leap into the air. He only beat him away if there was no other way, he preferred to grab hold of him firmly. “This is choreography as it should be,” was a lyric reporter during his promising early years.

Big mouth from Amsterdam

But the elegant guard did not have a stooping figure. In 1975, one day before the European Championship qualifying match against Poland, he complained about the big mouth of the team from Amsterdam and demanded more talk for the PSV players who in the meantime had surpassed the players of Ajax in the Eredivisie. Seemed like a reasonable request. With celebrities like Willy van der Keijelen, twins Rene and Willy van de Kerkhove, wasn’t he as good as Cruyff, Johan Neeskens (also at Barcelona), Ruud Krol and Wim Surbier? Experts agreed with PSV players. According to others, they suffered from the Calimero complex: “They are tall and I am small.”

New riots were born. Cruyff was not used to contradiction, he was angry and resentful. He got his revenge when Van Beveren was partly responsible for a 4-1 defeat by Poland the next day. “I didn’t play well and made mistakes,” Van Beveren looked back Norwegian Refugee Council. He did mention that Cruyff was completely out of shape. He did not admire the man, but the football player. Despite their quarrels, he remained the best for him.

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Cruyff demanded an apology

On the contrary, there was less respect. Cruyff demanded an apology for the comeback against Poland – which he did not receive. Cruyff lit the fire and rallied the suburban soccer press. Fed up with all these intrigues, PSV players Jan van Beveren and Willy van der Keijelen decided to leave the training camp one day before returning against Poland (3-0 win, with Pete Schrevers in goal).

“No matter how right you think you are, you can’t beat Cruyff,” Van Beveren said decades before Louis van Gaal explained the unequal battle in almost the same words. Many of the inconveniences left a deep mark. Of course there were only a few [Ajacieden]They took over my life,” Van Beveren wrote in his autobiography. “A lifelong frustration,” his father said.

Having refused this time to the World Cup for “special reasons”, he was invited to Hilversum in the summer of 1978 to comment on the group match against Peru. But when the Dutch TV audience (Over the Rivers) realized this, many threats followed Sports studioPresident Bob Spack contacted PSV director Ben van Gelder. The guest commentator was kindly but urgently asked to go home.


He was denounced as a coward, a hypocrite, a fraud and a traitor. He would have stayed with PSV for another two years – and he would have been whistled at away matches or (at Ajax) pelted with bicycle chains. But his decision was firm. “that’s it” , He expressed his plans to emigrate decades later in a NOS documentary by Mart Smits.

After a short-lived and successful adventure with the American professional club Fort Lauderdale Strikers, he led a somewhat anonymous presence in Dallas and the surrounding area for nearly thirty years. He worked in the stamp trade during the day and gave (goalkeeper) training in the evening. He was very happy there, with his children (grandchildren) and his second American wife. Homesickness did not know. He visited his parents once a year at most. And he said: “If they drop me off in the middle of the Netherlands, I won’t know where to go. Yes, to Schiphol, for the first plane back to the States.”

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Van Beveren died in the summer of 2011 in Texas at the age of 63 from a heart attack, he was found hanging on his laptop with a cigarette between his fingers. He received outstanding honors from the youth teams he coached there. They adored him, and the parents praised his kind nature and listening ear.

How different were the reactions in his country of origin. In his first club Emmen – he made his debut there at the age of 14 in the first – the stand still bears his name. And at his last Dutch employer, PSV hung a “bad-looking” wall sculpture. At the national office in Zeist, nothing reminds of the best goalkeeper the KNVB team has ever had.

Yet he was proud of every international match in which he was not injured or passed. Very proud that in 1999 he took part in the “match of the century” organized by Cruyff in the ring. Other former international players saw him sitting quietly, alone, in the back of the team bus on the way to the stadium. It wasn’t Cruyff’s fault this time, he acted great. On the other hand, his wife, Dany, would have looked at him falsely. And that left the squeamish Jan van Beveren awake again.

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