The hidden rituals of the dressing room
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A player's pulse inevitably starts racing whenever he or she steps out on the pitch, their dreams of victory and hopes of finding the net all dependent on the next 90 minutes or so.

Before that, the players gear themselves up for the trials and challenges ahead in the dressing room. For some, that means telephoning family or loved ones for moral support, or a burst of music to boost confidence; for others, a moment of quiet contemplation always does the trick.

It reminds us of our former coach, who got us qualified for the World Cup but isn't here with us in the Emirates.
Stuart Holthusen On New Zealand's changing-room idol

Every dressing room is a sanctuary with its own particular identity, depending on the team in question. While all of them tend to overflow with shirts, training tops, shin-guards, coloured boots, goalkeeping gloves and the like, each dressing room will also contain more idiosyncratic touches – a giant flag perhaps, letters of encouragement, or even a few lucky charms.  

Anything goes
That is true of every stadium around the world, and the six venues which have hosted games at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 are no exception. The dressing rooms in those arenas have witnessed every possible pre-match rite imaginable in order to energise the players and set the adrenaline pumping.  

Behind-the-scenes photographs from the tournament reveal members of the Mexico squad striking combat poses and wearing religious pendants, as well as a huge Japan flag filled with letters of support, and the kiwi figurine that occupied pride of place in the New Zealand dressing room. In short, anything goes.

Speaking to FIFA.com, New Zealand forward Stuart Holthusen explained the story behind his team's lucky mascot. "It reminds us of our former coach, who got us qualified for the World Cup but isn't here with us in the Emirates," he said. "Because of it, he's still with us."

Click on the photo gallery on the right of the page to view the famous kiwi in question for yourself and enjoy a privileged glimpse inside the dressing rooms of the other teams involved in the U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.

Click on the photo gallery at the top-right to see the changing-room images.