Start believing: Sunderland's lucky numbers, Derby's curse & Mineiro's team bus

Extraordinary cup jinxes with spectacular results feature in the latest article in our series chronicling the extraordinary power of belief

37 + 73 = 1-0 in the Cup

In early 1973, as Bob Stokoe’s Sunderland embarked on their FA Cup run, a local soothsayer claimed that because the team had won the trophy back in 1937, it was their destiny to win it in a year when the final two digits were reversed. The mockery which greeted the prediction gradually subsided as Sunderland proceeded to knock out Manchester City and Arsenal on their way to the final, where they shocked Leeds United with a 1-0 win. It’s only 23 years until 2037 and more FA Cup glory, Sunderland fans.

The Rams’ FA Cup curse

Unhappy with being forcibly uprooted when the Baseball Ground was built in 1885, a group of travellers placed a very specific curse on Derby County: that they would never win the FA Cup. The magic was strong. Between 1895 and 1909, the club reached no fewer than 13 semi-finals, only to lose them all. When they eventually made the final in 1946, club skipper Jack Nicholas took drastic measures, crossing a traveller’s palm with silver in a bid to end the curse. It worked: the Rams won 4-1 after extra time. Curse gone.

“Driver, whatever you do, don’t reverse”

Full speed ahead | Mineiro celebrate their Libertadores triumph

Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro were led to the Copa Libertadores title last season by superstitious eccentric Alexi Stival, known as Cuca. The unlikely success was built on a series of unusual pre-game rituals, from the team bus not engaging reverse gear on the way to the stadium to not eating animals that can walk backwards, such as chickens. To supplement these bizarre practices, Cuca usually wears a shirt with an image of the Holy Mary under a coat as well as bringing an altar to the dressing room for every game.

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