December 05, 2023

North Korea and the revolutionary football of 1966

Disciplined, surprising performance at UK World Cup inspired devotion, 'total football' concept

The notion of “total football” is well-known to sport aficionados today. Pioneered and largely employed by Dutch teams such as Ajax and even by the national Dutch team since the early 1970s, total football was popularized by Johan Cruijff. Fewer people, however, know where Cruijff and other Dutch players got the idea for a soccer strategy that literally revolutionized the game.

Cruijff had been experimenting with a high-intensity form of training and playing since the summer of 1966, when he watched some of the games in the UK World Cup, and was struck by the dark horse of that competition: the DPRK team.