7 bizarre pre-game rituals from around the world
And you thought your team's quirks were quirky
Last week, Kazakh soccer team Shakhter Karagandy got slapped with a warning from governing soccer body UEFA.
Why? The team slaughtered a sheep before Tuesday night's Champions League game against Celtic, leading animal-rights group PETA to send a "strongly worded letter" to the UEFA president.
Fearing the positive outcome (Shakhter won 2-0) would prompt the players to repeat the ritual, UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti stepped in and put an end to the practice, warning "animal slaughter on a football pitch...is totally improper, and will not be tolerated."
That means the rabbit's foot charms will need to be store-bought, not homemade — or at least not made on the pitch. And if the Shakhter players get desperate, they can try out these six other weird pre-game rituals from around the world:
1. A good eggAt the 1998 World Cup, France's team was riding a wave of superstition en route to the championship, with defender Laurent Blanc kissing goalkeeper Fabien Barthez's shaved head before each game.
As the wins piled up, so did the smooches. By the time France took on Brazil in the final, the entire team was in on the pre-game ritual. And it apparently worked, as France defeated Brazil to hoist its first World Cup trophy.
Eight years later, Ecuador's 2006 World Cup team implemented its own pre-game power play, enlisting Tzamarenda Naychapi, "an Ecuadorian Indian who is known for using magic to control events," to perform a ritual to eliminate evil spirits at each of the 12 World Cup sites in Germany.
The move was supposed to give the Ecuadorian team a boost of positive vibes they could carry all the way to the finals. And it worked until it didn't: Ecuador lost 1-0 to England in the Round of 16.
2. Cutting a rug(by)Rugby's a pretty intimidating sport as is, but New Zealand's All Blacks like to take things up a notch before international games by performing this traditional Maori war dance.
The team's official site describes it as "awe-inspiring, fearsome, proud," which, yeah, seems pretty on target. Former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis would no doubt approve, which brings us to…
3. The speech that could put Denzel out of showbizIf you've never taken the time to watch Ray Lewis pump up his team before a game, feast your eyes on this. The full-body pep talks were always loud, fiery, and, according to quarterback Joe Flacco, "didn’t even make sense."
4. A cloud of whiteRemember Cleveland? LeBron James seems to have forgotten, or at least is moving beyond one of his iconic rituals as a Cavalier: The Chalk Toss.
Yes, that was a thing. A messy, drawn-out, seemingly unnecessary thing. Since moving to Miami, James has phased out the routine, keeping it for special occasions instead. But we'll always have the YouTube videos.
5. NASCAR, or: What aren't these drivers superstitious about?Blame it on driving around in circles for a really long time, but the NASCAR collective has nearly as many superstitions as laps at the Indy 500.
From the color green to a $50 bill, take it to the track and expect to be razzed.
Here's former NASCAR Truck Series driver Rick Crawford:
"My granddaddy didn't like people even wearing green to the track... They'd actually turn around and go back home if a pit-crew member or somebody was wearing green." [Sports Illustrated]
6. UrineWhy do so many athletes decide that the road to victory is powered by pee? No clue, but there have been more than a few instances in which bathroom antics factored into pre-game rituals. Here are a couple:
Former MLB player Moises Alou admitted to urinating on his hands in-season to toughen them up. Never mind that urine may actually soften hands — the guy's batting average was .303 over a 17-year career. Whatever works.
Then there's former Birmingham City football manager Barry Fry, who peed on the four corners of the St. Andrew's pitch in a desperate attempt to break a supposed gypsy curse. The team hadn't won a game in three months, so desperation was perhaps understandable.
Unfortunately for Fry, the move was a little too dedicated for management's liking:
"Did it work? Well, we started to win and I thought it had, then they f--king sacked me, so probably not." [The Guardian]