Wednesday 25 February ~

The return of the Champions League last night saw one of the strangest occurrences in this season's competition. The Emirates Stadium crowd witnessed the bizarre scene of the home side kicking off the second half with just nine men – the reason being Arsenal's superstitious Kolo Toure insists on being last out of the dressing room and on to the pitch. However, fellow centre-back William Gallas was receiving prolonged half-time treatment and both missed the resumption of the match. Toure was then booked for entering the pitch without the referee's permission. As a result, should Arsenal progress to the quarter-final in two weeks and Toure pick up another yellow card, he would miss the first leg through suspension.

Toure is not alone in his compulsive behaviour and other examples appear in modern football. England and Chelsea captain John Terry claims to have "about 50" superstitions, including parking in the same spot in the club's car park, listening to the same CD before games, sitting in the same seat on the team bus and wearing the same pair of shinpads he has owned for the last ten years. David Beckham, who like Liverpool's Steven Gerrard has mentioned having OCD tendencies, wears long sleeves and a fresh pair of boots to every game. Paul Ince shared Toure's ritual in being last out of the changing room as a player and also only put his shirt on when he left the tunnel before a match.

Ince's international team-mate Alan Shearer would only eat chicken and beans before a game. Often alongside Shearer on Match of the Day, Gary Lineker used to change his shirt at half-time if he had not found the net in the first 45 minutes, but kept it on if he had. Some goalkeepers as well as goal-scorers are highly superstitious. David James goes to the toilet before a match, waits until they are empty, before spitting on the wall. Peter Schmeichel would parry exactly 100 shots before a match, while Shay Given places a vial of holy water from Lourdes in the back of his net as a lucky charm.

Famously, Don Revie, manager of Leeds United in the early 1970s, wore the same “lucky” blue suit during his reign, even when after years of use it became tattered. He took the same route to the dugout before a match, harboured an irrational fear of ornamental elephants and distrusted birds, even removing an owl from the Leeds club crest. Superstitions aren't necessarily restricted to individuals. The German national team refused to stay on the 13th floor of their hotel during the European Championship 2004 – though sadly it did not aid them as they fell in the group stage. Chris Hill

Comments (2)
Comment by imp 2009-02-25 12:57:18

When Shay Given concedes a goal, does he turn round and shout at his vial of holy water, "How the hell did you let that one in?" When Chelsea lose, does John Terry stay locked in the dressing room for 45 minutes holding an inquisition with his shinpads? "Come on, where's the magic gone?"

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2009-02-25 15:17:56

I used to play alongside a guy named Matt, whose only superstition was that he had to punch an opponent in the face before the match kicked off.

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