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The legendary Argentine's fear of salt and particular sartorial choices feature in the latest in our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief

As a player, Diego Maradona claimed that he feared “absolutely no one in the world of football”, even though assorted hatchetmen in Argentina, Spain and Italy did their level best to stop him at all costs during his career at Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli. Maradona did have a bizarre fear of salt, however, believing that it would bring ill fortune if it was spilt near or on him.

His unease with the seasoning was kept relatively quiet but, when Napoli faced local rivals Avellino in the mid-80s, word leaked out about the diminutive Argentinian's phobia and Avellino's masseur decided to sneak up to El Diego and chuck a handful of salt at him. The joke backfired with the masseur shepherded away by some Napoli heavies and "dealt with". Nonetheless, Maradona was shaken up and, although the incident was played down, he again referenced his fear of salt before the 2010 World Cup. By then, Diego had become his nation's highly excitable and combustible coach and he became a walking, talking bundle of superstitions throughout the tournament.


Diego Maradona's rituals failed to pay dividends at the World Cup in 2010

For each match, he'd emerge clad in a tracksuit and change into his grey suit (presumably a tactic copied from former coach Carlos Bilardo) for the start of the second half. He repeatedly crossed himself throughout matches at tense moments and, for much of Argentina's quarter-final match against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, played nervously with rosary beads. However, not even divine intervention, lucky suits or salt aversion tactics could prevent his team crashing to an ignominious 4-0 defeat. Maradona left his role shortly afterwards.

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