11 of the strangest superstitions in football: Pele, Chelsea, Toure, Revie
Superstition plays a big part in the lives of many footballers – but some rituals are a lot stranger than others.
Players are so desperate to win games that they often turn to pre-match traditions in the hope that it will give them a slight advantage on the pitch.
We’ve looked at 10 of the weirdest football superstitions over the years.
Pele may be regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, but the Brazilian suffered a rare dip in form at Santos during the mid 1960s.
After trying to get to the root of the problem, he arrived at the logical conclusion that his poor performances were down to him giving his ‘lucky’ shirt to a Santos fan.
The forward then hired a detective to track down the old shirt and a week later it was returned – and his form immediately returned.
However, it later transpired that the shirt was never found and the detective had simply given him a shirt from a previous game.
Chelsea have been one of the most successful clubs in England over the last 15 years, and John Terry revealed how a long running superstition has played a part in that.
“I am very superstitious and, for me, if we win a game then I add it on to my next superstition,” Terry said in 2016. “Last season, as you can imagine, it built up to quite a lot.
“Me and Frank started it a long time ago; in the Chelsea dressing room we have three urinals and me and Lamps started weeing in one. We won the game and, for me, that was it, the next week there was a queue of me, Frank and Ash.
“The next week there were four of us and the week after there were five.
“And even now, up until today, you have Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas, we are all there in one big queue.
“A few months ago the club secretary said to me, ‘We have had a few calls from the FA complaining because we have been going out late,’ and I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because we were all waiting to go for a wee.”
While we’re on the subject…
Former Argentina goalkeeper Goycochea had another toilet related ritual, except he would urinate on the pitch instead. Yes, really.
“You know, by the rules of the game, until the match finishes you cannot abandon the field,” Goycochea told the Guardian in 2007.
“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.”
On this day in 1990, Sergio Goycochea saved two penalty-kicks against Italy to qualify Argentina for the World Cup final.pic.twitter.com/vBY4LTl9rH
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) July 3, 2019
During his career, Toure always insisted on being the last player to come onto the pitch, but this got him in trouble during Arsenal’s game against Roma in 2009.
When team-mate William Gallas’ half-time treatment for an injury was delayed, Toure felt unable to re-enter the field until his centre-back partner emerged.
The game then restarted without either of them, and to make things worse Toure received a yellow card after returning to the pitch without the referee’s permission.
Mutu was one of football’s most controversial figures, and he once had a run-in with a group of Romanian witches (yes, you read that correctly).
They warned him that his career could suffer because he had been cursed by a former girlfriend, but Mutu wasn’t worried.
“No problem,” he reportedly replied, “curses can’t touch me because I wear my underwear inside out.”
It didn’t seem to work.
During the 1998 World Cup, the France squad had a rather strange pre-match ritual.
Laurent Blanc would kiss goalkeeper Fabien Barthez’s shaved head before kick-off and Blanc soon had the entire French team doing it.
Twenty years later, the squad had another lucky charm as they all stroked Adil Rami’s moustache and beard before every game.
We’re not saying it worked, but they did go on to win the World Cup on both occasions.
— Olympique Marseille (@OM_English) July 17, 2018
Cruyff is said to have been quite superstitious, and the former Ajax hero would always slap his goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach before kick-off.
If that wasn’t strange enough, he would then walk towards the opposition half and spit his chewing gum on to their side of the pitch.
However, he was unable to complete his ritual ahead of the 1969 European Cup Final against AC Milan after forgetting his gum – and Ajax lost 4-1.
Revie’s numerous superstitions are well-documented. The legendary Leeds United boss believed the images of bird brought bad luck; wore a ‘lucky’ mohair suit for games, even when the trousers became so threadbare his players were embarrassed to point out they could see his underwear; and took the exact same route to Elland Road on matchdays, refusing to return home if he had forgotten anything.
Things were so bad that he once summoned a gypsy to Elland Road to remove a curse that he believed had been placed on the ground to stop his side winning.
At least one owl (an heraldic symbol of Leeds since C17th) had featured on the @lufc crest since the Leeds City days (from 1908) but both Revie & club president Lord Harewood were superstitious about birds & removed it. Revie also had a supposed gypsy curse on Elland Rd exorcised https://t.co/ieTiR91ie4
— History of Leeds (@rh0desy) January 14, 2019
Anconetani was president of provincial club Pisa and oversaw their promotion to Serie A in 1982.
Despite their success, he would still throw salt onto the pitch at the Arena Garibaldi before every home game as he was convinced that it brought his side luck.
Ahead of a crucial game against local rivals Cesena in 1990, Anconetani reportedly arranged for 26kg of the stuff to be thrown on the turf, with his side going on to win 3-2.
While most footballers like to listen to music before a game, the former MK Dons midfielder had a rather strange tradition.
Kamara would spend over an hour and a half watching the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory before every game
“I have to watch it before every game. It gets me in the right mood,” Kamara said in 2009. “It’s been my favourite film since I was little – it calms my nerves and gives me luck.”
Another former Leeds United figure, controversial owner Cellino has a deep suspicion of the number 17 and retired the squad number upon his takeover at Elland Road. At his former club Cagliari, he also changed the seat numbers to 16b rather than 17.
Cellino is also a believer of the Italian superstition that the colour purple brings bad luck, inspiring protesting supporters at Leeds to use the colour wherever possible.