January 2010, World Cup 2010

The Luck Of The Drawer

Another big difference between you and your football brethren o’er the pond is our attitudes regarding luck and fortune and our relative ability to influence and harness it – or believe we can.  Ask any English fan if their team is going to win at the weekend and they will come back with a variety of euphemisms for good fortune – “hope so”; “fingers crossed”; “we’re due a win.” Ask a Yank the same thing and you’ll be blown back by the triple blast of their own innate self-confidence, their supreme confidence in their team’s ability and the force of their incredulity that you somehow question the preordained path that events are going to take. “What? You gotta be kiddin’ me? We’re gonna tear them a new a’ hole – man we’re gonna beat them so bad, people will think OJ did it” etc, etc.

I must have had about 20 pairs of lucky underpants over the years – always some combination of red and white, of course. When their dubious luck ran out, I sought other ways to reinvigorate their magic prowess – back to front, inside out, back to front and inside out, inside other pants, outside other pants, I was limited only by my imagination but sadly by the time you reach your late 20’s – underpants, lucky or not, aren’t the hippest thing for the woman of your dreams to discover you wearing so we look to other mystical tokens to influence the teams progress.

I’ve had lucky car parking spaces, lucky jeans, lucky trainers, lucky shirts, lucky jackets, lucky keys, lucky pubs – you know it, I’d have been a lucky pre-match prostitute if it would have guaranteed victory for the reds.  I know of one other fan who because of roadworks and circumstance took his family on a 10 mile round trip, out of their way, before every match for two months after the first trip ended with a Boro win.

Players are even worse than fans.  Gary Lineker never scored a goal in the pre-match “Kick In” because he didn’t want to waste them. Milan Midfield destroyer Gino Gattuso insists on reading Dostoyevsky in the dressing room before each match.  This is such a rich vein of obvious jokes (The Idiot; Crime and Punishment; The Insulted and Humiliated) I’ll leave you space to write in your own


David James and John Terry are just two of the players whose superstitions revolve around urinals. James has to be in an empty one before he spits on the wall; Terry will use the same one at Stamford Bridge, even if he has to wait a while before it’s free. Mario Gomez, the German striker, always uses the one furthest to the left of the door and worst of all, Sergio Goycochea, the Argentinean Goalkeeper, used to wee on the pitch before a penalty was taken.  He had a good record of saving them to so maybe there was something in it (the technique, not his pee).

Fabien Barthez was basically the French teams sex doll in 1998 with pretty much every part of his body rubbed for luck at various points, Laurent Blanc (Larry White to you and me) taking it to its obvious conclusion and smooching his bald pate.  I imagine Russillo and Van Pelt going through a similar pre-show routine every afternoon but this probably says more about me than them.

Like every piece of harmless fun however, there is always someone who takes it too far and ruins it for everyone else. In October 2008, the coach of Zimbabwean side Midlands Portland Cement instructed his squad of 17 players to bathe in the crocodile-infested Zambezi River in a ritual cleansing ceremony intended to restore emotional harmony and stability before their next match. Sadly for MPC, only 16 players emerged from the river and even more sadly, they lost their next game.

Like every facet of football though, you probably give it far too much thought, time and effort in an attempt to influence a game in which you have none whatsoever yet you continue to think that your own rituals and routines (my latest involves opening my wife’s underwear and accessories drawers in a certain order every Saturday morning) will somehow, no matter how small, contribute to the successful performance and result. “We won today.” You might even think that you are somehow above this Cro-Magnon stage of support and can genuinely be a detached observer with as little input into the game as a consumer of booze, pies and pretzels at various concessions around the ground and that somehow the team can win without your influence and input.

Good luck with that.

Guy Bailey