Start Believing: Luis Fernandez & the salt of the earth

The Euro 84 winner and France legend's habit of sprinkling salt on the pitch before matches is the latest story in our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief
Luis Fernandez has been one of French football’s most enduring characters since the 1970s; firstly as a player, then as a manager, and now in his current role as a hilariously blunt radio and television pundit. Still an object of wonder for the French public thanks to his myriad eccentricities, his superstitions began to manifest themselves more and more clearly after he moved into coaching in the early 1990s.

His most celebrated routine was with salt. Fernandez used to sprinkle it in different areas all around the pitch before matches, to give his team good luck. Fernandez wasn’t quite as brazen a practitioner of the ritual as Romeo Anconetani – the legendary Pisa president emptied up to 25kg of salt in the four corners of the Arena Garibaldi at a time during the 1980s. In fact, the Frenchman was quite the opposite. He practiced in a clandestine fashion.

"Superstition’s a strange thing. If someone figures out what you’re doing, everything’s completely buggered!"

"In the penalty area, in front of the corner flag on the penalty spot and on the goalline," he recalled in 2013. "I always managed to do it behind everyone’s back. When we’d just gone on our walk-round of the pitch or during training sessions at the stadium, for example. I walked around with my hands in my pockets and let out a little bit of salt, always with the air of someone who wasn’t doing anything in particular. Superstition’s a strange thing, something to keep to yourself, and only to yourself. If someone figures out what you’re doing, everything’s completely buggered!"

A central figure in France’s fabled Carre Magique (Magic Square) midfield from the victorious Euro '84 campaign, Fernandez is certainly a creature of habit, and carried various other ticks into his coaching career – the most recognisable of which was sucking on a lolly on the touchline during each match.

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