Dutch coach Johan Cruyff (Photo: AP)
Cruyff is currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with the four other members of the Ajax supervisory board over their appointment last week of Louis van Gaal as club director.
Allegations surfaced over the weekend that Cruyff directed a racist comment at Davids, who is of Surinamese descent. Cruyff reportedly said at a meeting earlier this year that Davids’ skin color was the reason for his appointment to the board.
In his column in Tuesday’s edition of Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Cruyff denied any racist connotations.
The former Dutch playmaker, considered one of the greatest footballers ever, explained the comment in his column by saying it was made in connection with efforts by Ajax to keep young players of non-Dutch descent at the club.
“It was Frank Rijkaard’s idea to tackle the problem by putting somebody from the same background on the board who had completed the youth academy,” Cruyff wrote. “That was one of the reasons Edgar Davids was asked to be on the advisory board.”
Cruyff’s management declined an Associated Press request for an interview.
Davids also wrote on his blog that he had not intended to portray Cruyff as racist.
“I have never said, and I want to stress it, that Johan Cruyff is racist,” Davids wrote.
The racism row in Amsterdam comes just days after FIFA President Sepp Blatter caused uproar with comments that racist abuse does not exist on the soccer field and that any racial incidents could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match.
Cruyff has had a troubled relationship with Van Gaal since Van Gaal’s time as coach at Barcelona, the Spanish club where Cruyff remains an influential figure.
Despite that history, four of the five members of the Ajax supervisory board decided last week—without consulting Cruyff—to appoint Van Gaal.
The club’s members will now likely have to decide at a meeting next week whether to support Cruyff or the other four board members.
Cruyff was appointed earlier this year and asked to help revamp its storied youth academy which over the years has been a production line that churned out talented players such as Wesley Sneijder, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert.
He installed former stars including Bergkamp and Wim Jonk to help nurture talented youngsters and train them in the slick-passing Ajax style.
Ajax has won the Dutch league a record 30 times and is a four-time European champion, from 1971-73 and again in 1995.
If Cruyff is forced out of the club, there are fears that Bergkamp and Jonk could also leave. Ajax coach Frank de Boer has declined to take sides in the dispute and looks set to stay.
One thing appears clear: Cruyff will no longer work with the other board members.
“I want nothing more to do with those people,” he wrote.