It’s Halloween! The top 5 of football’s curses

Some of us love carving pumpkins and dressing up, most of us loathe it but while we might all be too old for knocking on the neighbours’ doors and demand chocolate and sweets, we can’t remain indifferent when presented with a good old sporting curse.

American sports are awash with curses and superstitions, but football is second to none when it comes to employing witchdoctors and exorcisms.

1) Benfica might wish they had given Guttman a pay rise

Having spent 14 years playing football in Hungary, USA and Austria at the beginning of the 1900s, the Hungarian hung up his boots in 1933, before embarking on a managerial world tour of sorts.

Between 1933 and 1959 Guttman managed 17 different clubs, before arriving at Portuguese giants Benfica after spending 12 months at arch-rivals Porto. During his three seasons at the Estadio da Luz, Guttman steered Benfica to two Portuguese league titles, one domestic cup and back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962.

After beating Real Madrid 5-3 in the 1962 final, the Hungarian felt entitled to a pay rise but after having his demands turned down and his contract was terminated, he cursed the club declaring: “In the next 100 years no Portuguese team will win two European titles and Benfica will never be champions of Europe again without me.”

Porto did manage to win the European Cup in 1987 and 2004, but Benfica have appeared in seven European finals between European Cup/Champions League and UEFA Cup/Europa League and lost every single one of them.

2) It’s pissing down in Birmingham

Legend has it that when Birmingham left Muntz Street behind to move to St Andrew’s in 1906 they jeopardised the club’s future as they decided to build their new ground on land that was being used by the Romani people.

The original occupants of the area were left unimpressed at being asked to move so that Birmingham could develop their new ground and a 100-year hex was placed upon the stadium.

Ron Saunders tried to lift the curse by placing crucifixes on floodlights, while Barry Fry took a rather less religious approach.

“We went three months without winning … We were desperate, so I pissed in all four corners, holding it in while I waddled round the pitch,” Fry later revealed. “Did it work? Well, we started to win and I thought it had, then they fucking sacked me, so probably not.”

3) Derby told to forget about the cup

At the beginning of the 20th Century Romani Gypsies must have hated football, and nobody could have blamed them for that.

Much as Birmingham would do some years later, Derby forced a gypsy community to find another place to live as the club began building the Baseball Ground, but the Romani were having none of that and placed a curse upon the Rams which would prevent them from ever winning the FA Cup.

The curse seemed to work as County reached six semifinals, including three finals, between 1896 and 1903 without lifting the cup once. 43 years later, Derby reached the first post-war FA Cup final and a club’s representative met a Romani delegation in the hope to lift the curse.

With Derby and Charlton locked in a 1-1 draw, the ball burst and with it, many fans believe, the curse vanished. After the ball was replaced, County went on to win the game 4-1.

4) Stay amateur, lads

In 1948, Colombian side America de Cali’s owners entertained the idea of taking the team into the world of professional football.

One of them, Benjamín Urrea, strongly opposed the idea, but his colleagues derided him as he left the board room – as well as the club itself – for the last time claiming ”Let them do with the team what they want… but I swear to God they will never be champions”.

Having won their first professional league title in 1979, journalist Rafael Medina and singer Antonio del Vivar performed an exorcising ritual to ensure the curse would be lifted ahead of America’s Copa Libertadores debut in 1980.

Unfortunately for them their efforts did little to prevent their side from losing three consecutive Libertadores finals between 1985 and 1987, and while America have won another seven league titles, South American football’s biggest prize still eludes them.

5) Socceroos fail to pay up

In the qualifier for the 1970 World Cup, the Socceroos decided to play it on the safe side and consulted a witchdoctor before their decider against Zimbabwe

The witchdoctor buried bones near the goalposts and placed a curse upon Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia) which allowed the Aussies to seal a crucial 3-1 win, before the curse was reversed upon them after they failed to cough up the agreed £1,000.

The curse has since been blamed for the Aussies failure to reach the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Nothing to with being rubbish, ha?



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