10 Most Ridiculous Superstitions in World Football
With great responsibility comes doubt. When the happiness of thousands of fans depends on what you and your teammates do on the pitch, it is no wonder that footballers quickly abandon trusty old devices such as logic and embrace a weird world of mumbo jumbo.
Superstition plays a big part in the lives of many footballers. Some have lucky pairs of underwear that they swear by. Why would you change them if the team keeps on winning and more importantly, what would happen if you did?
Here are the 10 most ridiculous superstitions in world football.
10. Kolo Toure
The Ivorian insists on being the last player to come onto the pitch. It sounds a harmless enough superstition, but it landed the player in real trouble during a Champions League game between Roma and Toure’s former club Arsenal.
With Toure’s then central-defensive partner William Gallas receiving half-time treatment on an injury, Toure refused to come out before Gallas and the game restarted without them. Toure eventually took the field without permission from the referee and received a yellow card for his troubles.
9. John Terry
The former England skipper admitted to John Cross of The Mirror that he has ‘around 50’ superstitions that he has to observe before a match. The list of rituals is so lengthy and involved that even Rain Man would consider it a bit strange.
Before a game John Terry listens to the same Usher CD in the car, parks in the same spot, sits on the same seat on the team bus, ties the tapes round his socks three times and cut the tubular grip for his shin-pads exactly the same length. Terry even used the same pair of ‘lucky’ shin pads for ten years before losing them at an away game in Barcelona.
I wonder if wearing a full kit (including lucky shin pads) for a match that he’s suspended for, is another of Terry’s superstitions? It would certainly explain a few things...
8. Laurent Blanc and Fabien Barthez
One of the visual highlights of the 1998 World Cup was the sight of Laurent Blanc planting a kiss upon the shiny, bald head of the French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez before every game.
In fact, en-route to winning the World Cup for the first time, the French squad indulged in a string of wacky rituals. Each player would sit in exactly the same seat on the team bus, as they made their way to their games, before listening to Gloria Gaynor’s feminist anthem ‘I Will Survive’ in the dressing room.
Even the best players can find themselves under the control of a superstition and when I say ‘best’ I mean Pele.
The Brazilian legend once gave a match shirt to a fan, only to then suffer a dip in form. He instructed a friend to track down the old shirt and a week later it was returned to Pele, who immediately returned to his goalscoring ways.
What the friend did not tell Pele was that he actually could not find the original shirt and simply gave him another one. If he had not lied, then football history might have been very different.
6. Malvin Kamara
The Sierra Leone international Malvin Kamara played for the likes of MK Dons, Cardiff City, Port Vale, Huddersfield and Grimsby, before turning out for a number of clubs in non-league football.
Wherever he went he took a strange ritual with him. Before every game he watches the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Kamara explained, "I have to watch it before every game. It gets me in the right mood. It's been my favourite film since I was little - it calms my nerves and gives me luck."
5. Sergio Goycochea
They say that goalkeepers are crazy and some would definitely put the former Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea in that category, due to his bizarre superstition. Before every penalty shoot-out, Goycochea would urinate on the pitch to bring himself good luck.
Goycochea told The Guardian, “You know, by the rules of the game, until the match finishes you cannot abandon the field. And if you have any necessary human urges, you have to go on the field. So that is what happened against Yugoslavia (in the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals). At the end of the game I really had to go so I had no choice. But we won, so then when the semi-final against Italy went to penalties I did it again - and it worked! So from that moment on I did it before every shoot-out. It was my lucky charm.”
4. Alan Cork
Back in the 1992-93 season, the Sheffield United striker Alan Cork decided that he was not going to shave until the Blades were knocked out of the FA Cup.
Normally there would be a rather swift conclusion to such a superstition, but this was the season in which Sheffield United enjoyed a memorable cup run that resulted in a semi-final derby game against Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley. Cork took to the field with a lot more hair on his face than upon his bald head, resembling a retiree rather than a professional footballer.
The heavily bearded Cork scored an equaliser for United before Wednesday eventually won the game 2-1 to progress to the final.
3. Romeo Anconetani
Many a superstitious soul has thrown salt over their shoulder before, but few took things as far as the former Pisa president Romeo Anconetani.
Anconetani would throw salt onto the pitch at the Arena Garibaldi before every game. The bigger the game, the more salt that the president would sling on the pitch. So when Pisa faced their local rivals Cesena in a particularly important game, Anconetani arranged for 26kg of the stuff to be thrown on the turf. It must have looked like a dry ski slope.
2. Johan Cruyff
Holland’s greatest ever player Johan Cruyff, had a string of bizarre pre-match rituals that he would strictly adhere to. These included slapping his Ajax teammate, the goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach, before kick-off.
Cruyff would then find time to meander towards the opposition half and spit his chewing gum on to their side of the pitch. On the one occasion when Cruyff forgot his gum and he was unable to complete his ritual, Ajax lost 4-1.
Unfortunately for Ajax and Cruyff, this gum-losing incident happened to occur in the 1969 European Cup Final against AC Milan. It would never happen to Sir Alex Ferguson.
1. Midland Portland Cement
We’ve heard of a team sharing a bath after a game, but the management team at the Zimbabwe club Midland Portland Cement took things a little too far when they told their squad to bathe in the Zambezi river near Victoria Falls.
According to the LA Times, the intention was to “cleanse the team of bad spirits”. Unfortunately the club’s coaches hadn’t given much thought to the dangers posed by a river where swimming is banned due to it’s strong currents and the little matter of it being heavily populated by hippos and crocodiles.
Some 16 players went into the river, but sadly only 15 came out, as one of the players disappeared and was thought to have drowned.