Superstition is the way
© AFP

Like any activity where good fortune comes into play, football is certainly not free from superstitions. The list of those in the game prone to strange beliefs is a long one, so FIFA.com brings you just a selection of the most bizarre rituals - focusing this week on players from around the world.

We start with Chelsea and England captain John Terry who, underneath his fiercely competitive exterior, hides a veritable mass of strange customs. "I'm extremely superstitious," said the player himself. "I always sit in the same seat on the team bus, I always wrap tape round my socks three times, I listen to the same CD on the way to the stadium and I always park in the same spot before every game at Stamford Bridge."

As if that were not enough to keep the Blues stalwart busy before a match, Terry also admits to having a lucky pair of shinpads, having lost his previous pair during a UEFA Champions League clash at Barcelona's Camp Nou in 2005. "I'd been using those shinpads for so long that I thought ‘that's it, it's all over'. But Lamps (Frank Lampard) gave me some of his and fortunately we won [our next game, the Carling Cup final against Liverpool] and I've used them ever since. Now they're my lucky charm."

Following in the same vein is another of the modern game's great competitors, Gennaro Gattuso of Italy and AC Milan. Indeed, the player later admitted that his rituals during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ took on extreme proportions, though that particular story certainly ended well for the Azzurri. "Every day I wore the same sweater than I'd worn the first day [of the competition]. I was sweating buckets and in a terrible mood because I couldn't bring myself to take it off," he told FIFA.com.

"I was obsessed by superstitions. For example, before the Czech Republic match (in the group phase) I packed all my bags ready to go home," added Gattuso, who subsequently found himself doing the same thing before each and every match. Even more curiously, perhaps, was the tough-tackling midfield man's custom of reading a few pages of the works of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky prior to each game.

One ritual practised by footballers the world over is wearing the same underwear for matches, such is the case with Romania's Adrian Mutu or former Colombia shot-stopper Rene Higuita, whose undergarments always have to be blue. "In the late 1980s, Atletico Nacional just couldn't beat (Colombian rivals) Millonarios," Higuita told FIFA.com. "So around that time (former Colombia international defender) Carlos Perea arrived and together we went to see a fortune-teller. She told us that we had been cursed and sent us a belt and blue underpants for all the players. It worked like a dream: we won everything and even claimed the Copa Libertadores. Since then I've always worn them."

Staying in South America and we have former Chile front-man, Ivan Zamorano, who picked up the habit of wearing a white bandage on his right wrist. The ritual stemmed from a minor strain suffered during his time at Swiss club Saint Gallen, with the freshly bandaged hitman grabbing a hat-trick in his next game. The dressing stayed and the goals continued to flow for a man who went on to play for European giants Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

Argentinian midfield maestro Juan Sebastian Veron, another who has graced several of the biggest clubs on the Old Continent, tells a similar tale of the strapping just below his right knee. "It all started after an injury I suffered in 1997 and then I kept it on out of superstition," the former Boca Juniors, Manchester United and Inter Milan schemer, now back at first club Estudiantes La Plata, told FIFA.com. "And I don't think I'll ever stop doing it, because things haven't exactly gone badly for me!"

At France 1998, meanwhile, we have the example of host nation skipper Laurent Blanc, who kissed the bald head of keeper Fabien Barthez before each game of Les Bleus' triumphant campaign. Another lesser-known fact about that French success was their habit of playing Gloria Gaynor's hit "I Will Survive", coincidentally the most popular karaoke choice by women the world over, prior to taking the field. Also musically inclined were Colo Colo's Copa Libertadores-winning squad of 1991, who warmed up to Banda Blanca hit "Sopa de Caracol" (Snail Soup) before each encounter.

England front-man Gary Lineker, the Three Lions' second-highest scorer of all time, steadfastly refused to shoot at goal during warm-ups, preferring instead to save his goals for the match itself. Moreover, if he had failed to score in the first half, he would put on a fresh jersey at the interval, while lengthy goal droughts were solved by a visit to the hairdressers.

Former England internationals Bobby Moore and Paul Ince, for their part, both insisted on being the last players to leave the dressing room - placing their faith in a good performance in kitting up alone and only putting on their shirts as they ran onto the field. Arsenal's Kolo Toure, meanwhile, earned himself a yellow card in a Champions League tie against Roma after stubbornly refusing to leave the dressing room before fellow straggler William Gallas, who was receiving treatment for an injury.

Nor will you find Germany's Mario Gomez singing the national anthem before matches, and it is not because he does not know the words. This particular ritual has its roots in a Germany U-15 encounter, during which Gomez found the net after abstaining from the anthem. Those who witnessed his displays at UEFA EURO 2008 may question the effectiveness of this routine, though it is not Gomez's only quirk. Indeed, the Stuttgart striker will only use the far-left urinal to relieve himself before matches.

Staying on this rather dubious topic, special mention must go to Argentina keeper Sergio Goycochea, who earned worldwide fame for his penalty-saving heroics at Italy 1990. He puts his spot-kick prowess down to urinating in the centre circle, blocked from view by his Albiceleste team-mates, prior to shootout victories over the former Yugoslavia and Italy in the last eight and last four respectively.

Goycochea later repeated the ritual prior to quarter- and semi-final shootout triumphs at the 1993 Copa America, against Brazil and Colombia respectively this time, with Argentina going on to win the continental competition - their last major trophy success.