Whether it’s a fan’s lucky pair of socks or players touching the top of the tunnel as they enter the pitch, the footballing world is laced with superstition. And with superstition comes the dreaded curse.
With the threat of the Premier League’s cancellation hanging over them, champions-elect Liverpool must feel as if they are the latest to fall under a wicked spell. Just like this unfortunate lot.
1. Messi’s Argentina agony
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both boast obscenely great records at club level, but if there’s one thing that separates them, it’s delivering on the international stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to glory at Euro 2016 and lifted the inaugural Nations League in 2019. Messi, meanwhile, has never been able to scratch his international itch.
Despite being part of a hugely talented Argentina squad for over a decade, Messi has never won a major trophy with his country – though he has come desperately close, being a runner-up in three Copa Americas and the 2014 World Cup. In total Messi has been eliminated from major competitions nine times with the Albiceleste, never scoring in any of the defeats.
2. Benfica’s European nightmare
The Portuguse giants have lost their last eight European finals in a row, and it’s all thanks to the curse placed on the club by their former manager, Béla Guttmann, almost 60 years ago.
After guiding the club to back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1961 and 1962, Guttman asked for a well-earned pay rise. However, after this request was turned down, Guttman quit and allegedly declared that “not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.” And so they haven’t, with their latest defeats coming in the 2013 and 2014 Europa League finals.
At this stage, if Benfica could vote for their own version of a Brexit from European football, we reckon they probably would.
3. The wrath of Old Big Ears
It’s well known that touching the cup before any final is bad luck, and there’s no greater proof of why than in recent Champions League history. Ludovic Giuly (2004), Gennaro Gattusso (2005) and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (2012) all did so, and all ended up on the losing side in heart-breaking circumstances.
It transpired to be Giuly’s last appearance for Monaco, Gattusso was on the wrong end of Liverpool’s miracle in Istanbul, and Tymoshchuk’s Bayern Munich lost the final on penalties in their own stadium.
So, not for the first time, we advise footballers to keep their hands to themselves in future…
4. The cat curse of Racing Club
Trying to get one over your local rivals is nothing new, but Independiente fans took it one step further back in 1967. While Racing Club fans celebrated the club’s Intercontinental Cup victory over Celtic, Independiente supporters broke into their neighbours’ stadium and buried seven dead cats under their pitch.
What followed was a quite remarkable sequence of events. Racing fell apart on and off the pitch, getting relegated in 1983 and declaring bankruptcy in 1998. In order to lift the curse, the following year a priest performed an exorcism at the stadium in front of 100,000 fans and six of the feline remains were recovered.
Eventually the pitch was fully dug up in 2001 under the instruction of new manager Reinaldo Merlo in order to find the seventh cat and finally break the spell. They found it, and it worked like a charm – Racing Club went on to win the league that very year.
5. The curse of the Aaron Ramsey goal
One of the more puzzling pieces of wicked sorcery in recent years, it appears that whenever the Welshman hits the back of the net, a famous face dies within hours. There have been many “victims” of the curse over the years, including Steve Jobs, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Roger Moore, and Eric Bristow to name just a few.
Oh and Osama bin Laden.
6. Birmingham and Derby’s Romani curses
Both of these Midlands outfits were subjected to curses from the Romani community in their formative years. After being forced to move so that Blues could build their St Andrew’s stadium in 1906, angry Romanis placed a 100-year hex on the stadium. Even Barry Fry p*ssing in all four corners of the pitch in the 1990s failed to lift it, with the curse eventually expiring on Boxing Day 2006 with victory over QPR.
Derby, meanwhile, were placed under a similar curse in 1890 when building the Baseball Ground. However their punishment was to be destined never to win the FA Cup. Between 1896 and 1903 they reached six semi-finals and three finals, and lost in all of them. The curse was supposedly lifted when the matchball burst in the 1946 FA Cup final against Charlton with the scores tied at 1-1. Derby eventually went on to win 4-1.
7. Liverpool’s Premier League hex
It’s been 30 long years since the Reds were last crowned champions of England, when they steamrolled their way to the 1989/90 First Division title. They’ve come close since – finishing runners up in 2002, 2009, 2014, and somehow in 2019 with 97pts – but this was meant to be the season they were to finally break the hoodoo.
Liverpool found themselves 25 points clear at the top and potentially within days of finally lifting their maiden Premier League trophy before an unprecedented turn of events surrounding the coronavirus saw all football in the country paused. Jurgen Klopp’s outfit now find themselves in real danger of seeing that title wait tick over to 31 years, with the likelihood of the entire season being scrapped increasing by the day.
Should that decision be made, Liverpool fans will at least have one new title to brag about: being the possessors of the must cursed club in England.