Today is Friday the 13th
A Chelsea fan has taken a scarf to 25 countries over 40 years
He has another lucky charm for his adopted Swedish women’s team
Dean didn’t want a Rubik’s Cube, Star Wars figures or Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots for his seventh birthday in October 1980. He wanted a ticket to accompany his dad to a Chelsea game.
His mother refused. It was, after all, 1980s England. Hooliganism plagued stadia. Dean begged. Dad acted as defence counsel. Mum finally relented.
“I’ll never forget it,” Dean Fraser-Phillips told FIFA.com. “It was my seventh birthday. I was so excited. My dad bought me a rosette, a programme, a pie and a scarf. Chelsea played Newcastle and we won 6-0. The scarf has been with me ever since. My wife calls it my second skin.”
It has been, indeed, to 600-plus matches across 25 countries, including two UEFA Champions League finals, three FA Cup deciders and, just for the hell of it, the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ Final. Dean insists it has fetched bounteous fortune.
“In 1993, I couldn’t find my scarf,” he said. “From October to December, we went 11 games without a win, losing nine.
“One day my mum said to me, ‘I’ve found your scarf.’ So I put it on, went to the game, and Chelsea won the next three matches. I thought, ‘This scarf is pretty special.’
“Later in the ‘90s I lost my scarf at Old Trafford. We went ten games without winning. This was way before the days of social media. I contacted the club saying I’d lost my lucky scarf. Then a fan contacted me by text saying he’d found it in a park.
“Turns out he was a Man City fan. Lucky he wasn’t a Tottenham fan – he could have wiped his bum with it and put it in the bin (laughs). We won the next four games without conceding a goal.
“Then there’s the Champions League finals. In Russia in 2008, we played Man United. I took the scarf off for the penalties. John Terry slipped and missed and it was over.
“In 2012 we went to the Allianz Arena to play Bayern Munich. My friend said to me, ‘This is your lucky scarf, isn’t it? Do not take it off.’
“But it was quite warm, so I took it off. They scored. I put it back on. We scored. It went to penalties. I took the scarf off. We missed our first penalty. I put the scarf back on. They missed two penalties and we won.
“Ever since then that scarf has not left my neck – no matter how hot it is. It’s a lucky charm. I’m incredibly superstitious person.
“I’m not saying that every time I’ve worn it we’ve won, but every major game I’ve worn it we’ve had a bad dip when I’ve taken it off and a good dip every time I’ve put it back on.”
For almost a decade, the scarf has had a fortune brother. In 2011, the Scotland-born, England-raised poet, writer and song lyricist moved to Sweden for work.
“I wanted to find a football team to follow,” Dean said. “I moved to a city called Norrkoping. I went to see a couple of local men’s teams. I didn’t feel the love, I didn’t feel any connection. I felt like I was cheating on my wife.
“Then in 2012, my best friend, Lisa De Vanna, said, ‘I’m coming to Sweden to play football – Linkoping. “I was like, ‘That’s 20 minutes away.’
“I met Lisa while I was living in Australia. I went to watch a game and I was like, ‘Who the hell is that!? She can run like Carl Lewis.’ I think she’s the most physically gifted football player I’ve ever seen.
“She’s been my best friend in the world for 20 years. We speak every single day on the phone. I love her to death. She’s an incredible human being.
“Anyway, Linkopings had Karen Bardsley, Nilla Fischer, Lotta Rohlin, Pernille Harder, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson. Through Lisa I’ve met some of my best, best friends. Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, amazing friends.
“I actually realised that I absolutely love women’s football. Not because my best friend was playing, but because for me it’s way better than men’s football.
“My niece bought me a teddy bear. We call him Leo. Leo is my Chelsea scarf in Linkoping. I took him to games and we won back-to-back league titles.
“Then I moved. I put it him in a cupboard somewhere. We finished seventh, then eighth. My niece asked about Leo, so I got him out, took him to a game. We won four in a row. This season Leo’s going to every game. Trust me (laughs).
“Every time I go to a Linkopings game now, I have to sit in the same seat. If I don’t, we lose. If I do, we win. Football has made me incredibly superstitious in other areas of life.”
Dean’s superstitions have rubbed off on his other half, Emilia.
“My wife supports Betis – she’s from Seville,” he said. “She has this incredibly lucky book that she takes with her every time she goes to a game: The Frying Pan of Spain by Colin Millar. On Sunday she took the book to a café and Betis beat Madrid 2-1 (laughs).
The blessed book is approaching its first birthday. Dean’s marriage with his scarf is approaching, astonishingly, its 40th.
“Forty years, wow,” said Dean. I’m really proud of it. When I die, it will be buried with me.
“Apart from my wife, it’s the most loved thing in the world. It’s part of my persona. If my house ever burned down, it would be the first thing I would rescue. After my wife, of course!"