Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ruud Gullit and the struggle for South African freedom

They called Ruud Gullit the Black Tulip, a name that suggested at once both his elegance on the field of play and his identity without. For Gullit was more than just a footballer, he was a symbol, and one that meant a great many things to different people, not just in his native Netherlands. As a footballer, he was one of the greatest: three Dutch Eredivisie titles, three Italian Serie A titles, two European Cups, a Ballon d’Or, and even a European Championship, his country’s first and only major honour, and one delivered under Gullit’s captaincy. To football fans, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, Gullit was a phenomenon, a genius. To some, he was even, in the words of George Best, ‘better than Maradona.’ He was the total footballer.

But, again, Gullit was more than this. It was not for no reason that the late Nelson Mandela praised him as ‘a source of tremendous inspiration for young people, not only in Holland or Europe, but throughout the world.’ More than a footballer, he was a musician (although not anywhere as accomplished in the latter field as he was the former). And more than a musician, he was a voice.

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