Many great athletes use lucky charms, believing they'll keep Lady Luck at their side, before, during and after their every match. Some stick to wearing underpants of a particular colour, entering the pitch last or kissing a particular team-mate's bald head. Fearing public ridicule, these rituals are generally kept very private. Sometimes, however, the oddest fetishes are accidentally revealed, and the media does its thing, letting the world know about them while generally leaving their magic intact. Read on to find more about the most famous lucky charms in professional football!
Chelsea's skipper has some of the wackiest superstitions and lucky charms. In 2010, the official magazine of this London football club reported that the team's star defender goes out of his way to always urinate in the same locker room stall. If it's taken, he'll wait until it's free. "It’s true. When the dressing room was installed, for some reason I could only go there. And the foreign lads don’t really get why I'm waiting behind them when there's plenty of spaces elsewhere!" Terry confessed. Apart from that nasty habit, good old John has a reserved seat on the team's bus and listens to the same CD at every concentration.
Pele is the most important football player in the history of Brazil. Some even consider him the best player of all times. His 767 official goals, 26 National Championships and 3 World Cups seem reason enough to do so. However, even the greatest believe in luck. In the sixties, the idol of the Santos went through a dry spell where he couldn't score any goals. He attributed this to a very specific event: at the end of the last game where he had scored a goal, he gave his jersey to a fan. Since then, he couldn't get the ball to cross the goal-line. Recalling that detail, he asked one of the club's employees to track the jersey down and bring it back. The man did as requested, presented Pele with the jersey, and he managed to score again. Some years later, however, the employee admitted to having cheated. He had just grabbed a similar jersey from the club's locker room and pretended it was the original.
This Ivorian defender has practised a very rigorous ritual since his first professional matches: he won't enter the field before any of his team-mates. Whether playing for his club, Liverpool F.C., or for his national team, the ritual remains the same. In 2009, this weird behaviour garnered him a yellow card. Touré, who was then playing for Arsenal, was waiting outside the pitch for the medic to finish examining his colleague William Gallas's leg. The referee got tired of waiting on them, and ordered the start of the match' second half. Moments later, Touré entered the field without the referee's permission and was given a warning. "William was adjusting his boots so maybe that's what saved him. But it's good I'm the only one that got booked. If it's the both of us, I'm thinking that could be a problem," said Touré at the end of the game, explaining the situation.
René Higuita is probably the most charismatic goalie professional football has ever seen. And he had a few very strange quirks, to be honest, both on and off the field. In addition to performing acrobatic movements worthy of a circus performer, like "the scorpion," Higuita had a very intimate lucky charm: whenever he played professionally, he'd have to wear blue underpants. But that's not the end of his extravagances. Higuita himself was the reason for a changes to FIFA's laws of the game. The "back-pass" rule, which prohibits the goalkeeper from handling the ball if passed by one of his own team-mates, was written explicitly because of his team's abuse of that technique during Italy '90.
During his stint as a player, Johan Cruyff kept two rather strange rituals. He would execute the first one before starting any game with the Ajax. Cruyff would approach the team's goalkeeper, Gert Bals, and pat him on his belly for good luck. The second one involved spitting the gum he'd chew before every game on the opposing team's side. He blamed his team's loss at the 1969 European Cup Final on having skipped that ritual. Ajax lost that match 4-1 against Milan and from that day on, Johan would never again forget it.
Iván Zamorano and Juan Sebastián Verón
The Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano and the Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron are known for having used bandages as lucky charms. Zamorano once had to use a wristband to protect an injury to his ligaments. He scored three goals during that match and would go on to wear a white wristband on a regular basis. Veron, on the other hand, suffered chronic pains on his right knee, which his team's medics attempted to soothe with a simple bandage just below the joint. The midfielder was so satisfied with his performance during that match that he decided to wear it for the rest of his professional career.
Laurent Blanc, the French defender, used to always kiss his team's goalie's bald head just before kick-off. In addition to that, after a few good matches, the whole team adopted the habit of sitting in the same seats on the bus that would carry them to the stadiums. Later, Blanc confessed to a third ritual the team would perform the night before every match: they would sit together and listen to Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive." These rites seem to have been very effective, since the French team would win the World Cup while performing them.
Gary Lineker, Hugo Sánches and Ronaldo
Three of the best strikers in football history shared the same routine: in order to keep luck on their side, they would refrain from scoring any goals during the training sessions previous to any important match. Ronaldo's also known for always stepping into the field with his right foot. However, Lineker was the most superstitious of the lot. If he hadn't scored any goals during the first half, he would swap his jersey for a fresh one at half-time. Additionally, whenever he found himself in a goal-less spell, he'd go to the closest hairdresser to freshen up his style. He believed that this cosmetic change allegedly would improve his performance.
Sergio Goycochea, the goalkeeper during Argentina's highly successful Italy '90 campaign, had a nasty habit that brought him good luck. Before the penalty kicks that would define the quarter-final match against Yugoslavia, he felt the urge to relieve his bladder. "The rules of the game state that the players are not allowed to leave the field until the game's finished. That's why I had to urinate right there. Since we won, and the semi-final was also decided in a penalty shoot-out, I decided to repeat it," Goycochea told The Guardian after the second successful match. After that, whenever he'd have to defend the goal from penalty kicks, he'd stick to this routine.
Malvin Kamara is a Sierra Leonese footballer who's played for several English clubs, including Cardiff City, Huddersfield and Grimsby. Before every match, this midfielder would go out of his way to watch "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" from start to finish again. When the media got wind of his odd ritual, the player went on to explain why he practised it. "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," Kamara told the incredulous journalists.