When we think of curses we tend to imagine voodoo dolls and wicked witches, but whether you believe in them or not, they’re a very real thing in football – or at least they seem to be.
Ever seen your team lose five finals in a row or be routinely smashed in the derby? Well guess what? They might not be crap, they could just be cursed!
Football is riddled with superstition – whether it’s a fan of lucky scarf or John Terry’s “special urinal”. Is it a load of bollocks? Well that’s kind of besides the point, as these little quirks can have a big impact on people, affecting both mentality and performance.
Perhaps that explains why there are a decent number of plainly observable curses knocking about in the sport. So without further ado, here are eight of the most infamous.
READ MORE: 10 strangest football superstitions – from John Terry’s urinal to Phil Jones’ socks
Chelsea’s No 9 shirt
Romelu Lukaku has become the latest victim of Chelsea’s incredible No 9 curse. Despite arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer as one of the world’s most prolific goalscorers, Lukaku’s fairytale return had turned into a nightmare by Christmas – and we probably should have seen it coming.
Other victims of the dreaded shirt include Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuain, Mateja Kezman and Chris Sutton, and it also had some bizarre owners like Steve Sidwell, Khalid Boulahrouz and Franco Di Santo.
The Blues should probably just retire the number at this point to be on the safe side.
Have we forgotten any other footballing curses? If so let us know in the comments section below.
Aaron Ramsey and celebrities
People have noticed a spooky link between Aaron Ramsey and celebrity deaths. Basically, whenever the Welshman scores – which mercifully isn’t all that often – a well-known public figure tends to bite the dust.
Of his 64 career goals, 23 celebrity deaths have been recorded in the immediate aftermath with Osama Bin Laden, Steve Jobs, Colonel Gaddafi, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, David Bowie, Eric Bristow and most recently June Brown – who played EastEnders’ icon Dot Cotton – all kicking it after a Ramsey net-buckler.
Thank God he missed his penalty in the Europa League final, I s’pose.
Yaya Toure and Pep Guardiola
Does Pep Guardiola overthink in the Champions League, or is he simply a victim of African shaman hoodoo? Yaya Toure’s agent claimed that Guardiola had “turned all Africa against himself” after benching the Ivorian during his final season at Manchester City, before spookily insisting that “many African shamans will not allow Guardiola to win the Champions League.”
Since the supposed curse was inflicted City have been knocked out the competition by Tottenham, Lyon, Chelsea and Real Madrid – despite being favorites in each and every tie.
“This will be for Guardiola an African curse,” Toure’s agent added. “Life will show whether I am right or not.” Indeed it will.
Man United’s No 7 shirt
Whatever groundwork was laid by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s been ruined by Michael Owen, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay and Alexis Sanchez – as well as a few others!
Manchester United’s famous No 7 shirt used to be so prestigious. Now it’s as non-descript and unappealing as Phil Jones (sorry, Phil).
Sure, Ronaldo may have bagged 24 goals wearing it last season, but he’s arguably made United worse since returning – which sort of proves that the curse is alive and well, don’t you think?
The touch of impending doom
Three players have superstitiously tapped the cup on their way out for the Champions League final in recent years: Monaco’s Ludovic Giuly in 2004, AC Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso in 2005, and Bayern Munich’s Anatoly Tymoshchuk in 2012.
As you might’ve guessed, all three players and their respective teams were on the losing side in their respective finals.
Coincidence? Well considering how unfavored Porto, Liverpool and Chelsea were in the competition at the start of their respective campaigns, I’d suggest not.
In 2001/02, Bayer Leverkusen finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League, earning themselves the nickname ‘Neverkusen’.
To make matters worse, they were Bundesliga runners-up three years in a row between 1999 and 2002. The club have never won the German top flight, and their bad luck even extends to the German national team.
In the 2002 World Cup final defeat to Brazil, Germany’s team had five Leverkusen players in it.
Now that’s a course.
Leverkusen’s curse is so effective that it seemed to latch itself to Michael Ballack even after the midfielder maestro left the club in 2002.
Despite admittedly winning a few league titles with Bayern Munich and Chelsea, Ballack maintained a nasty habit of finishing second throughout the rest of his career.
In 2008 alone he was runner-up in four competitions; the Premier League, the Champions League, the League Cup and the European Championships with Germany.
He re-joined Leverkusen in 2010 and helped the club mount its first proper title challenge since he left. Appropriately, they finished second behind Borussia Dortmund.
Benfica in Europe
Benfica have agonizingly lost their last eight European finals in a row. The reason? Their former manager Béla Guttmann.
After guiding the club to back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1961 and 1962, the Hungarian – who had pioneered the 4-2-4 formation and nurtured Eusebio into a world-beating talent – asked for a modest pay increase, but the club refused.
In response, Guttman quit and allegedly declared that “not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.” And so they haven’t.
Just another four decades, lads!