Sometimes, you’ll do everything in your power to win. Even if that means you look a bit silly in the process.
This list is living proof that footballers actually are human, and some are just a little bit stranger than we imagined, to be honest.
A superstition can be the catalyst for a player’s incredible stretch of form, a team’s underdog run in a tournament, or a horrible statistic that links celebrity deaths to your name whenever you score (we’ll get to that).
Some might say that the decision to make this list 13 examples long is bad luck, but we here at 90min are hardcore, and don’t believe in any of that. Except on Sundays and Wednesdays…
Here’s 13 of the wildest superstitions floating around the footballing world.
Kolo Touré – Last Man Out
During his playing days, Kolo Touré insisted on being the last player on the pitch every time he played. This was a bit unusual, but okay… that was until he wouldn’t return to the pitch for Arsenal at half time of a match in 2009, because William Gallas was receiving treatment for an injury in the dressing room.
Touré wouldn’t return until Gallas did so, and Arsenal had to restart without their two centre-backs. To rub salt in the wounds, the Ivorian was booked when he did finally come back on, because he did so without the referee’s permission.
Chelsea’s Lucky Urinal
Unfortunately, this isn’t the last you’ll read of toilet-related superstitions in this list.
Chelsea legend and former captain John Terry revealed in 2016 that himself and Frank Lampard started a pre-match ritual in the dressing room that involved everyone queuing up to use the same urinal before Chelsea took to the pitch.
Terry explained that himself and Lampard began using one specific urinal of the three that were available in the Stamford Bridge changing room, after which they won the game. The following week, Ashley Cole joined the queue for this very urinal, which snowballed into the whole team doing so.
David Beckham’s Fridge Organisation
From ex-England captain to another, former Manchester United and Real Madrid wide man and celebrity icon David Beckham revealed in 2006 that he suffers with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
He explained at the time that he had to make sure that cabinets and fridges were neatly aligned, and would ensure that the items in his fridge were well organised, be it at home or in a hotel with the squad. If something didn’t fit neatly in the fridge, it would be stored elsewhere, to avoid messing it up.
When you consider how perfect his quiff has looked over the years, it makes complete sense.
Phil Jones’ Socks
For a man plagued by misfortune throughout most of his career so far, it seems a bit ridiculous to think that Phil Jones is superstitious.
In 2011, the Manchester United defender admitted that he had a ‘stupid’ pre-match ritual; Jones would decide which sock he puts on first on a matchday, depending on whether United were at home or away. If they were at home, and their name on the fixture list was on the left, then Jones would put his left sock on first. If they were away, he’d put his right sock on first.
Considering this was nine years ago, and looking at how Jones’ career has panned out since, I think we can assume that this one didn’t work.
Louis van Gaal and Numbers
Like a poor rip off of Triple H, van Gaal is the King of Quirks. From dropping to the floor, to forgetting players names, to doing photo shoots with topless women, he’s done it all.
An interesting one (of several) from his time at Manchester United was his decision to switch youth prospect James Wilson’s shirt number from 47 to 49. Usually after a breakthrough into the first team , a player’s shirt number would go down, not up. Not here.
Wilson revealed in 2014 that van Gaal ordered the change, because a striker should have the number nine in their shirt in some capacity, thus he strangely moved up by two numbers. Because that makes a lot of difference.
Jamie Vardy Having a Party
The secret behind Jamie Vardy’s title-winning form a few years ago was a bit outrageous.
He revealed in 2016 that during the season Leicester won the Premier League, he had picked up a pre-match ritual of drinking half a bottle of port every night before a match, followed by three cans of Red Bull on the day of the game.
Hardly the healthy diet that you’d expect from a footballer, but we can’t knock it.
Sergio Goycochea and His Toilet Habits
Goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea became a hero when his penalty saves sent Argentina to the World Cup final in 1990. In that tournament, he made a name for himself with outstanding performances in penalty shoot-outs throughout the knockout stages, but cites a strange superstition for his success.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2007, Goycochea revealed that he couldn’t leave the field to urinate in the World Cup quarter-final that year, so he did his business on the pitch before they got underway. Argentina won, so he continued to do his business on the pitch every time his side faced a penalty shoot-out.
Raymond Domenech’s Astrology
Euro 2008 was a tournament to forget for France, as they finished bottom of their group in a dismal effort. It was even worse, however, for the Scorpios within the French squad.
Then-manager Raymond Domenech was a big believer in star signs and astrology, and actually let it dictate his team selections. He famously left Robert Pires out of his French squads for a number of years while he was in charge, effectively ending his international career, because he was a Scorpio.
Domenech admitted that he didn’t trust Scorpios which is why himself and Pires clashed. He also made a number of other controversial decisions in his squad, excluding key members without explanation and handing inexperienced footballers game time instead.
Gary Lineker’s Weird Warm Ups
With 48 goals for his country, Gary Lineker remains England’s third-highest top goalscorer of all time, but the secret for maintaining such an impressive strike rate is a unique one.
Lineker would purposely not shoot during his pre-match warm ups, to avoid ‘wasting’ his goals before a match would kick off. We’d say this is ludicrous, but his 330 career goals suggests that there was method to the madness.
Mesut Ozil – Kit Man’s Nightmare
For the German playmaker, one knot simply isn’t enough. Ozil revealed in 2014 that instead of tying the laces on his football boots in normal fashion, he repeatedly ties them up with several knots.
He also noted that he must always put his right boot on first and step onto the pitch with his right foot. If he accidentally puts his left boot on first, he has to take it off and start again.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – No Sex Before Matches
This one starts far away from the pitch, in the bedroom – but it’s not what you might expect.
Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic abstains from sexual intercourse before football matches, as he prefers to save the passion for the pitch. Otherwise, he believes, he’ll have a poor game.
David James’ Toilet Ritual
There’s a somewhat alarming number of toilet-related rituals in this list, so you’ll be delighted to know that this is the last example.
Before a game, ex-Liverpool goalkeeper and England international David James would wait until nobody was around, before heading off to the urinals and spitting on the wall.
The Ramsey Curse
This one is genuinely a bit freaky…
Aaron Ramsey has been widely recognised as one of the most assured and competent midfielders in Europe, and occasionally has an eye for a goal. Fans have noticed in the last few years, however, that every time the Welshman scores a goal, a celebrity dies shortly after.
Notorious examples include Eric Bristow, Burt Reynolds and Paul Walker. Terrifying stat.