I’d like to begin with a question; what is it that’s a worldwide phenomenon and is defined in dictionaries as a belief in things that are not real or possible?
Let me give you a quick clue. I’m not talking about my global fan club or the queue of film stars just waiting for to go on a night out with yours truly, nor am I alluding to any thoughts and dreams of Sunderland winning the Champions League. No, my friends, the answer is something we’ve all encountered at some stage in our football watching lives.
It’s well documented that a lot of footballers have their own particular superstitions. Some of them have been particularly strange to say the least, leading to real tragedy in one case.
For instance, John Terry reportedly admitted to having about 50 rituals he would carry out before any match, including listening to the same CD in his car, parking in the same spot, sitting in the same seat on the coach and wrapping tape three times round his socks. He also wore the same ‘lucky’ shin pads for ten seasons and you have to wonder whether he had any time for training with all that going on.
Laurent Blanc used to plant a kiss on Fabian Barthez’s bonce before every game, which probably seems quite a French thing to do, and the great Johan Cruyff’s warm up rituals was to slap his keeper square in the guts. He’d probably find himself being hauled up in court nowadays!
The tragedy I talked about happened in 2008, when someone had the bright idea that having the whole Zimbabwe national team bathe in the Zambezi would change their fortunes by cleansing them of evil spirits. Unfortunately, one player did not emerge from the river, believed drowned in a stretch know for strong currents and a population of Crocodiles and Hippos.
It all seems a bit bizarre when you think about it logically, but what would happen if superstitions did actually work, with games of football being decided by a player putting his left sock on first being trumped by one of the opposition who was last to enter the playing area? Imagine the football results being read out; “the match finishes two all, but team A wins on ladders walked under!”
It sounds crazy, but nothing would surprise me when it comes to the so-called beautiful game.
Now it’s probably the understatement of the century, but football in this country is currently in a bit of a state; it seems like the game’s equivalent of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are currently doing the rounds. So we need to use every trick in the book to ensure things start moving onwards and upwards sooner rather than later.
As fans, we have no control over the business or playing side so maybe all we can do is keep crossing our fingers and avoiding those cracks in the pavement.
Come on admit it, we’ve all done it at some stage. For instance, how many of you have gone to a Boxing Day fixture wearing the nine-foot scarf your Granny made, or that new Christmas jumper that’s so thick it takes up two seats on its own (then been reluctant to ditch it because you witnessed a stirring performance and a good win). It’s totally crazy, I know, but I do have personal experience of this particular level of straw clutching or utter stupidity as it is also known.
Back in December 2003 I went into hospital for an operation. It was a couple of weeks before I was back on my feet which just happened to coincide with a game at The Stadium of Light so I decided that would be an ideal opportunity to reintroduce myself to the sporting world. I know what you’re thinking - I would have been better off staying in the operating theatre. But hey, I’m a glutton for punishment.
Being December it was pretty cool to say the least, so yours truly decided to head off to the match wearing my pyjama bottoms under my jeans. Sunderland were on a poor run having just one win in eleven games (nowt new there then, eh?) but lo and behold they won. So that was it. It wasn’t down to the players, the manager, tactics or the fact they were playing the bottom club Wimbledon. No my friends I can honestly say it was the pyjamas that did the trick.
Now I know it does sound a bit beyond belief but Sunderland won the next four games, scoring eight goals without conceding and went on a run which saw them only lose twice in the next eighteen matches. I kept wearing the PJ bottoms at each home game, which was a bit unfortunate because the next time we lost on our turf was April 18th, by which time it was considerably warmer. Even Marks and Spencers finest sleeping apparel doesn’t look that great sticking out of the bottom of brightly coloured Bermuda shorts.
My better half was praying I didn’t have an accident, more out of saving face rather than marital love, but I’m sure my fellow fans could understand my predicament and dedication to the cause.
It’s true that people looking in from the outside would generally regard football supporters as a bit of a strange breed, but maybe they don’t know the half of it.
It’s confession time. What have you done in an effort to change our fortunes?