Football's famous superstitions: Terry's toilet trick, kissing Barthez's head & the game's weirdest rituals

John Terry Fabien Barthez Luis Suarez superstition
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Some players can invest so much into their routines that they become lucky charms in their minds

In football, players and coaches will do nearly anything to get the slightest edge, something that will bring them over the line ahead of their opponents.

That usually includes seeking out the best diets and trying to train as intelligently as possible, using statistics and so forth in order to maximise the chances of winning.

For some, the pursuit of victory also involves adhering to certain rituals and, while they might seem absurd or odd, an interruption to routine can have an adverse effect.

Goal takes a look at some of the funniest and weirdest superstitions in football.

  1. Fabien Barthez & the France national team
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    #1 Fabien Barthez & the France national team

    France won their first-ever World Cup in 1998 and went on to win the European Championship for the second time in their history two years later.

    Key to their success during that momentous period, depending on who you believe of course, was the ritual of kissing Fabien Barthez's bald head.

    Laurent Blanc, a close friend of Barthez, would routinely plant his lips on the goalkeeper's crown before games and it soon became a lucky charm in the minds of Les Bleus.

    The rest of the team joined in and an iconic image was born as France officially became the best team in the world.

    Another less famous element of superstition among that France team was their insistence on listening to the 1970 Gloria Gaynor hit 'I Will Survive'.

    Interestingly, the idea of ritual was also heavily present when France won the World Cup in 2018, with Antoine Griezmann and others on Didier Deschamps' team making sure to stroke Adil Rami's moustache.

  2. John Terry's never-ending superstitions
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    #2 John Terry's never-ending superstitions

    John Terry could arguably fill a list of his own with the number of supersitions the former Chelsea captain observed during his career.

    The centre-back accumulated so many rituals that it became a joke among his team-mates, who began to wind him up.

    So what sort of superstitions did he have? 

    He didn't like to touch the ball in the dressing room, which led to interesting encounters with Eden Hazard and others who liked to get a feel for it before games.

    He used to listen to the same CD in the car on the way to the game - American singer-songwriter Usher, apparently - and would park in the same spot.

    He would tie tape around his socks three times and make sure to sit on the same seat on the team bus on the way to away games.

    He wore the same 'lucky' shin pads for 10 years too before ditching them following a defeat to Barcelona.

    The strangest, however, involves going to the toilet and it's one that the entire Chelsea team actually got involved in.

    "In the Chelsea dressing room we have three urinals and me and Lamps (Frank Lampard) started weeing in one," Terry told The Sun in 2016.

    “We won the game and, for me, that was it, the next week there was a queue of me, Frank and Ash.The next week there were four of us and the week after there were five.

    “And even now, up until today, you have Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas, we are all there in one big queue.

    “A few months ago the club secretary said to me: ‘we have had a few calls from the FA complaining because we have been going out late’ and I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because we were all waiting to go for a wee.”

  3. Peter Crouch and his lucky pants
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    #3 Peter Crouch and his lucky pants

    Former Liverpool and England striker Peter Crouch was similar to John Terry in that he had a list of superstitions and rituals that he adhered to before games.

    According to his wife Abbey Clancy, Crouch had a pair of lucky underpants that he wore during games, even paying £600 on one occasion to have them brought to him.

    "I went shopping with my mum and we found these lucky pants and we bought him them. He wore them and he couldn’t stop scoring," Clancy said on the Amazon Prime show 'Back of the Net' in 2019.

    Another ritual Crouch had was to jump into the air and head an invisible ball after shaking hands with the opposition. 

    "I had so many that I had to rein it in and stop it," conceded the towering goalscorer. "I just kept adding things."

  4. Don't touch Luis Suarez's boots
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    #4 Don't touch Luis Suarez's boots

    Luis Suarez is one of the greatest goalscorers in modern-day football, bagging more than his fair share at Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona, as well as internationally for Uruguay.

    When it comes to superstitions, the striker was very particular about his footwear, according to former Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson.

    The Uruguayan was not fond of people interfering with his boots before a game.

    "I’ve seen players that go mad if you touch their boots. Suarez was one but there were quite a few," Johnson explained to talkSport in 2020, adding that the striker would sometimes be so incensed that he would even seek a new pair to play in.

  5. Let Kolo Toure be last
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    #5 Let Kolo Toure be last

    Superstition landed Kolo Toure in trouble with a referee in 2009.

    The former Ivory Coast defender did not feel comfortable unless he was the last player to enter the pitch, so he would wait until all of his team-mates had taken to the field.

    However, that very action earned him a yellow card and some ridicule during a Champions League game for Arsenal against Roma.

    Toure's defensive partner William Gallas had been receiving treatment for a knock in the dressing room at half-time, so had not returned to the pitch. 

    As Toure waited for Gallas, Arsenal began the second half with nine men. However, a problem arose when Toure entered the pitch without the referee's permission.

    He was duly shown a yellow card and admitted it was one of the most embarrassing moments of his career. 

    "The good thing is that I have learnt a new rule," he said afterwards.

  6. Adrian Mutu's curse shield
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    #6 Adrian Mutu's curse shield

    Legendary Romanian striker Adrian Mutu allegedly adhered to the custom of wearing his underwear inside out for good luck.

    According to reports online, the former Chelsea star revealed his ritual after learning that a 'curse' had been put on him by Romanian witches.

    The story goes that Mutu was unfazed by the concept, reportedly retorting: "Curses can’t touch me because I wear my underwear inside out."

    Of course, it cannot be said that Mutu went his whole career untouched by bad luck, so maybe he sometimes wears them the right way round.

  7. Johan Cruyff the belly slapper
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    #7 Johan Cruyff the belly slapper

    While Johan Cruyff scathingly dismissed the idea of pre-match rituals later in his career, he actually had a few himself in the early days at Ajax.

    Before games, the Dutch legend would land a customary slap on the belly of goalkeeper Gert Bals before then proceeding to spit his chewing gum into the opponent's half.

    He grew out of that 1970s habit though and by the 1990s he was highly critical of players - and coaches - who had their various superstitions indulged.

  8. Felix Magath's lucky tie
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    #8 Felix Magath's lucky tie

    Former Bayern Munich manager Felix Magath grew quite attached to a green tie when he was manager of Wolfsburg in the late 2000s.

    When he steered the Wolves to a then-record number of successive wins, Magath declared that the tie would not be changed as long as they were winning.

    Who are we to argue? Magath steered Wolfsburg to Bundesliga glory that season, finishing two points ahead of Bayern Munich.

  9. The battered boots of Jack Grealish
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    #9 The battered boots of Jack Grealish

    During Aston Villa's 2018-19 promotion-winning season, Jack Grealish became somewhat superstitious about the boots that he wore.

    Footballers often have endorsement deals with sportswear producers and more often than not they love to wear the latest boots. However, that was a luxury Grealish decided to ditch.

    Having scored a few goals and laid on some more for his Villa team-mates on his return from injury, the playmaker decided that it had to be his boots.

    As a result, Grealish kept wearing the same pair, only changing after the club achieved a place in the Premier League.

    The leather was tearing off and his favoured left boot was particularly battered.

    "They were brand new and then I got a few goals, a few assists," he explained. "I thought these were my lucky boots so I've had to keep them."

  10. Don Revie didn't like birds
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    #10 Don Revie didn't like birds

    Legendary Leeds United manager Don Revie was famously superstitious and felt so strongly about certain matters that he even had someone try to lift a curse off Elland Road.

    As well as insisting on the team bus going the exact same route to every game, Revie would wear the same suit as long as the team won - which became a small issue during their successful periods when his trousers wore thin!

    Revie also felt that certain birds were bad luck, so the sudden appearance of an owl badge on the Leeds jersey - inspired by the city coat of arms - in the 1960s was a tad unusual. It was eventually dropped in favour of 'L.U.F.C.', with Revie reportedly an influence behind the decision.

    Oh, and he didn't like ornamental elephants either.