Arsenal in the Community

Dutch legends open Cruyff Court

Relive the day when Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie opened the new football facilities at Elthorne Park.

There was a buzz in the air around Elthorne Park on October 23, 2008. Dennis Bergkamp, who had become an Arsenal legend over the course of his 11 years with the club, was coming to visit. With him would be Robin van Persie, the Dutch star who looked set to take over the Iceman’s Arsenal torch. But perhaps best of all, they would be joined by the man who could claim to be the greatest Dutch player of all time – in fact one of the greatest, full stop – in the form of Johan Cruyff.

It was all down to Arsenal Kicks. We launched our first Kicks programme at Elthorne Park in 2006, and the scheme was so successful that it soon expanded to four nights. Yet the park was run down, with puddles forming all over the decaying pitch and a lack of floodlights making the space less than inviting after dark.

Islington Council was planning a redevelopment, but Arsenal that led the way when Bergkamp pledged €100,000 from his own testimonial after he retired in 2006.

He approached The Cruyff Foundation, which was set up in 1997 and had installed more than 80 pitches across Europe. Islington Council also contributed, along with other investors, and the UK’s first Cruyff Court was opened here in Islington in 2008.

Bergkamp said, “I hope this Cruyff Court can bring as much joy to the youngsters playing football as I had when I played.”

It has without done that, and the day the Dutch came to town will live forever in the memories of those who were there.

Read more about Arsenal Kicks at Elthorne Park here

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