Rinus Michels dies at 77

Rinus Michels, honorary member of Ajax, died in a hospital in Aalst, Belgium at age 77 Thursday morning. Michels enjoyed great success as coach of Ajax and FC Barcelona in the early seventies. In 1974 he led the Dutch national team to the final of the World Cup in Germany. He captured the 1988 European Championship with Holland.

Michels had preventive heart valve surgery in Aalst on 18 February and spent a few days on the intensive care. According to Henk Kesler, director of the Royal Dutch Football Association KNVB, complications had arisen in the past few days. Michels passed away at 5 am.

Michels, capped five times as a player, earned the nickname 'The General' as a coach for his sometimes hard treatment of his players. His phrase ''Football is war'', has become famous.

As a player, Michels, born 9 February 1928 in Amsterdam, won two championships with Ajax; in 1947 en 1958. As Ajax's coach he captured four national titles and won the European Champions' Cup in 1971. After that, Michels joined FC Barcelona with which he the Spanish title in 1974. As a supervisor above national team coach Fahdronc, he led the Dutch national team to the World Cup final that year. Holland impressed with spectaculair play, the so-called 'total football', but lost to Germany in the final. He would have to wait 14 years for the ultimate revenge. Again with Michels at the helm, Holland won the European Championship in 1988, defeating rivals Germany in the semi-final (2-1) and the Soviet Union in the final.

Michels' wife Wil passed away last year. It was a heavy blow for the retired coach, who was an advisor to the KNVB the past years. When Holland celebrated 50 years of professional football in 2004, Michels was voted the best coach from that period.