By TomTom – Your SatNav around Football
Superstition is rife amongst professional footballers. It is almost as much a part of the pre-match ritual as the warm up. From Johan Cruyff spitting chewing gum into the opposition’s half prior to kick off to Laurent Blanc routinely kissing goalkeeper Fabien Barthez’s shining bald head throughout their successful 1998 World Cup campaign; famous football superstitions continue to be a prevalent part of the game. Even an old, wise head like Roy Hodgson has his customary superstition, wearing the same clothes from underpants to overcoat during an unbeaten run.
A sad reality that gains less coverage is the superstitions of the fans themselves. Being a football fan presents an unnatural state of helplessness and thus we find ways of attributing responsibility to ourselves. Sure, there is the 12th man argument but that is for those lucky enough to be in the stadium and even then it is scant consolation. The truth is that seemingly innocuous decisions such as the clothes we wear on match day, the order in which we put them on and the timing of going to the bar all become crucially important in making us feel partially responsible over an excruciatingly powerless situation. We’ve all had that horror moment when your team has lost and you have a dreaded realisation. I didn’t have my lucky pants on.
The ridiculousness of these superstitions are indisputable and yet they remain utterly necessary. It is another example of a fundamental flaw in the minds of a football fan. The internal dialogue that I find myself locked in whilst watching my team is laughable. Let me use the England Ukraine game as an example. It was approaching half time and England were really under the cosh. We weren’t playing well and it was tense, almost painful viewing. I needed the toilet. Just go I thought. However, it was at this point that my superstitious football mind clicked into gear. Going then would have represented a cardinal sin of football fandom. You do not change the status quo under any circumstance whilst the result is in your team’s favour in a given situation. I attempted to rebuff these thoughts. How is an action by one person in a pub around 1,500 miles away from where the game is taking place going to affect the outcome? But what if Ukraine score whilst I’m away I thought? I never would have forgiven myself. Thankfully I held out to half time, we won and I am therefore partially responsible for that victory.
My issue with this thought process is when it doesn’t work. When those lucky pants don’t bring about victory. What do you do then? Adaptive as human’s are, we find a replacement superstition and attempt to erase the memory of the one that has so badly failed us. Of course we lost I forgot to put a bet on beforehand. The pants go in the bin, the pre-match bet becomes an integral part of the routine and we are back in control of our team’s destiny. And repeat as before. It is endless turmoil.
So when I need the toilet during the Italy game on Sunday I’m going to go. I’ve recognised I am in truth insignificant and I can handle that. Or maybe I’ll just wait until half time….?« The psyche of an English football fan Blue Square South club convert to CIC »
“Having studied English at university and always been a keen footballer and fan, combining the two has always appealed to me.” - Tom Lytton-Dickie. -"I'm a recently qualified journalist and I've worked in newspapers and broadcasting. I'm a dedicated follower of all sports primarily football, tennis and cricket." Tom Allnutt
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