We live in an age of reason, where cold logic is valued above all else. Dressing room ritual in most sports has been replaced by modern sports psychology but footballers still hold onto their superstitions. Reminding us all of a time when superstition played as important a part in everyday life as does logic today. Swide chooses for you 10 top footballer’s superstitions.
Johan Cruyff would slap his goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach while he was at Ajax, and then spit his chewing gum into the opposition's half before kick-off. When Cruyff once forgot his gum, in the European Cup final of 1969, Ajax lost to Milan 4-1.
The best player in the world was suffering a slump in form and although his sublime skills had not deserted him, he reasoned that it must have been due to a particular shirt that he gave to one of the fans. The fan was tracked down and the shirt was returned to Pelé whose form, upon receiving it, took a sudden upswing. The man who found the shirt for him though, neglected to tell him that he hadn’t tracked down his lucky shirt afte,r all but just handed him the shirt he’d worn for his previous match.
The Republic of Ireland’s number one keeps a bottle of holy water in inside the goal whether he’s playing for country or for club. His predecessor fellow County Donegal man Packie Bonner would also keep a clod of clay from Gartan in his glove bag everywhere he went, so Say is carrying on a tradition. Given is an excellent ‘keeper but with Ireland drawn in the Euros with Spain, Italy and Croatia, he’ll need a miracle to keep out all the shots.
The Spain and Liverpool goalkeeper has a long and bizarre list of pre-match rituals which includes going to a petrol station to fill up his car even if he doesn’t need it. ‘Six hours before kick-off at Anfield, and before I can even think about the game, I have to get to a petrol station. After getting into the car, I turn the engine on and look at the fuel gauge. It is almost full. I still need petrol, though, so I head to the same garage that I always go to when Liverpool are at home, a small filling station almost exactly halfway between my home and the stadium. I get there, open the petrol cap and begin to refuel. I am only at the pump for 20 seconds or so before the tank is full, so I go in to pay. The cashier gives me a bit of a funny look.’
Famously superstitious as a player now more so as a manager. During Agentina’s 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa, manager Maradona was seen coming onto the pitch in a tracksuit only to re-emerge from the tunnel after half-time wearing a grey suit. He held rosary beads in his hands during the game and every time his team switched training pitches he would make the sign of the cross.
AC Milan midfielder and World Cup winner Genaro Gattuso allegedly prepares for a game by reading Dostoyevski while on the ‘throne’. The hardman of Italian football obviously has a more intellectual side, but the part in Crime and Punishment were Raskolnikov hacks his landlady to death with in axe could perhaps explain Gattuso’s ruthless streak in the middle of the field!
Midlands Port Cement
In 2009 the head coach of the Zimbabwean first division club Midlands Port Cement ordered all his players to bathe in the crocodile-infested waters of the Zambisi river. According to local tradition submerging in the waters can allay evil spirits. Of the seventeen who entered the water to bathe, only sixteen emerged. The team lost their next match too.
Bilardo who coached Maradona’s World Cup winning Argentina team in Mexico 1986 must have done something right. Although with the stock he placed in superstition he may have had some extra help, he carried a statue of the Virgin Mary to all his games. When the team bus broke down on the way to one of their group matches and the team were forced to take taxis to the local stadium, the team won the game and the xoach insisted in taking taxis to all the stadiums for the remainder of the tournament.
When the Ivorian footballer played for Arsenal he famously missed the start of the second half in a Champions League win against Roma. Touré was waiting for the return of fellow defender William Gallas, who was receiving extra treatment, to enter the pitch so he could be the last person onto the pitch. Touré later claimed that he had to be the last person on the pitch due to his belief in superstition, the referee didn’t see it that way and booked him for entering the pitch without permission.
Pablo Hernández Coronado (far right)
Garlic has always been a herb believed to have potent powers. Apart from its culinary uses it is revered in mediterranean countries a tradition that inspired Brahm Stoker to make it the bête noire of the vampire. Pablo Hernández Coronado Real Madrid goalkeeper from 1915 – 22 claimed that after the stadium had been refurbished they hadn’t won a league title in 5 years. That is until a clove of garlic was buried under the centre circle on the pitch and the curse was banished.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty