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?
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.
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...
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.
He has played for and managed both Ajax and Barcelona. Embodying the "total football" philosophy, he was voted European Player of the Century in 1999.
Johan Cruyff's rituals seemed bizarre on the face of it. The Dutch footballing legend would always punch his teammate Gert Bals in the stomach before a match began. A slightly less aggressive, but scarcely less peculiar habit of Cruyff's was to spit his chewing gum into the opponent's half of the field just before kick-off. He felt that the influence of this latter habit was vindicated when he forgot his gum in hte European Cup Final of 1969. His Ajax side lost 4-0 to AC Milan.
He spent ten years with Manchester United, during which he won a clutch of trophies, including the 1999 treble. He also turned out for a number of other sides, including Preston North End and Real Madrid. He made over a hundred appearances for England, many as captain.
Former England captain David Beckham admits that he struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder. This has helped push him towards a series of rituals that he felt were very necessary to perform. "I have to have everything in a straight line, or everything has to be in pairs," he said. Beckham admitted that he has often rearranged hotel rooms to make "everything perfect". He will move all the leaflets and books into a drawer. The former Manchester United star's wife Victoria also revealed that Beckham will throw away a can of drink from their fridge rather than tolerate an uneven number. "He's a weirdo," said Victoria.
He has kept goal for a host of clubs including Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Aston Villa. He won over a hundred caps for the Republic of Ireland.
Prior to every match he competed in, Irish goalkeeper Shay Given would place a vial of Lourdes holy water at the back of his goal as a lucky charm. "I carry it in my kitbag and it goes everywhere with me," he said. Given was not the first Irish goalie to take something special to the field. His predecessor in goal for the Republic of Ireland was Paddy Bonner, who would take a piece of clay from County Donegal onto the pitch in his glove bag.
He began his career with Watford in the 1980s. During the following decade, as a Liverpool player, he also represented England on 53 occasions. He has also worked as a model for Giorgio Armani and as a TV pundit.
Many footballers have obsessive rituals that go "way beyond the normal", says former Liverpool goalkeeper David James. Take James himself, for instance. His elaborate routines, which he described as "mental machinery", began the evening before each game. He would not speak to anyone and he would seek out a urinal, wait until it was deserted and then spit against the wall. James felt it really made a difference when he was between the sticks. "I was in this mad little world where as long as I did everything in the right order, then anything could be achieved," he said.
Laurent Blanc and Fabien Barthez
Blanc played for several clubs including Napoli, Barcelona and Manchester United. A cultured defender, he won 97 caps for France, and a World Cup winner's medal in 1998.
A kiss is just a kiss - unless it's a puckering ritual that leads to your country winning the football World Cup. French defender Laurent Blanc took to kissing the bald head of a teammate, goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, before each game at the 1998 World Cup finals. It made for quite an arresting sight: the big-haired Blanc kissing the vast, barren orb of Barthez. But Blanc's superstition worked - the French went all the way to the final, in which they beat the mighty Brazil. The French team had another tradition during the tournament: listening to the Gloria Gaynor song 'I Will Survive' in the dressing room.