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Football Superstitions in Argentina

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Players, fans and even the President try to help influence the good luck of their team.
You can change your wife, your house, your car, your job and even your political party, but you can not - ever - change your football team. That is one of the first rules that I was taught about life in Argentina when I arrived in Buenos Aires.
But strong loyalties are just one indication of the importance of football in national life. As I quickly discovered, the influence of soccer goes far deeper and is reflected in countless rituals which a large number of Argentines rely on for good luck every time their team play.
One superstition common among many Argentine football fans is that the wearing of lucky pants or a shirt will boost the chances of their team. There are also those supporters who refuse to stand if their team is winning and even some who insist on eating the same food, and indulging in the same drink before every game.
Some traditions involve entire families or groups of friends and are repeated week after week, usually at home. "We are Boca Juniors fans and we all have different superstitions," explains Maria. "I will watch the match alone in my room, surrounded by my teddy bears while my father and my brothers watch it in the living room."
Maria's father always sits to the right of her eldest brother who will always wear his lucky underwear. The youngest brother sits on the floor holding on to a lucky coin during the match.
"Even my mother is a part of it. She is not a big football fan but she goes to church and prays for the team. She feels that's a good way of helping," says Maria, who insists that even if her team loses they won't change their routine.
"We have to do it, just in case. If we don't do the same rituals and our team loses we will feel really guilty".
Maria's peers also have their own way of wishing good luck to their team. One friend puts a garlic clove in her bra before every game. Another goes on a pilgramage every year to pray for divine intervention for her team.
Players Superstitions
But superstition is not just limited to Argentina's army of fans. Coaches and players have their own.
"There was a famous goal keeper, Sergio Goycochea, who used to urinate on the pitch every time there was a penalty. He started doing this in the semi-final of the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and it worked, so he kept doing it all the time," says Sergio Rinaldi, a fan of Rosario Central, a team named after the city of Rosario north of Buenos Aires.
As for the coaches, Rosario's Edgardo Bauza always uses the same jacket, game after game, even in the sweltering heat of the summer. Carlos Salvador Bilardo, who was the coach of Argentina during the World Cups in 1986 and 1990, wore the same lucky tie.
"I think everyone has a lucky item, even if they don't make a show of it. But the teams have another kind of superstition. For example my team, Rosario, once brought a witch to the stadium to protect their goal line. Racing, a team from Buenos Aires, even organised a huge pilgrimage in 1998, with priests and everything, to change their luck," explains Rinaldi.
And there are also rituals to bring bad luck to opponents. For example, Racing fans bring lots of sugar to throw onto the pitch when they play against Independiente (another team from Buenos Aires). Boca fans used to bring chickens into the stadium when they played against River Plate (it's now forbidden).
Even the President Gets Involved
"The funniest superstition involves our ex-president, Carlos Menem," Rinaldi explains. "There's a tradition that Mr Menem - during the ten years that he was in power - brought bad luck to the country. He's a fan of River Plate, so the opposing side is always happy when he comes to watch his team play."
On one occasion, San Lorenzo supporters brought a huge picture of Mr Menem when their team played against River Plate. The former president wasn't there, but he apparently worked his magic and San Lorenzo romped home to victory.



Lourdes Heredia, June 2001

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