The weird and wonderful world of match day superstitions.
Dependent on your tier, fans are in stadiums once more, not in the same numbers, but it is a start. The return of supporters also means the return of something less evident, often less visible, and usually much more peculiar, matchday rituals, routines, and superstitions.
Human beings are inherently odd, we attach meaning to things in all sorts of bizarre ways, and football fans are at the very top of the tree when it comes to oddities. Villa fans are not alone in their embracing of the weird and wonderful on matchdays, in the hope it will bestow some of that preciouscommodity, luck, on the claret and blue.
Admittedly, I’m fairly plain in this regard, I may repeat one or two things that I associate with a previous victory, (same shirt, jacket, or jeans for example) but nothing too wacky. Others put me to shame when it comes to their commitment to their routine. I reached out to the AVFC public to get a taste of their matchday quirks and they didn’t disappoint.
“I always have to be facing backwards for the first kick off, don’t ask me why, I just do.”Sebastian Bacon (UTV Podcast)
“So being over here in the states, I legitimately go outside in front of my apartment and look towards Villa Park an hour before kick-off.”Mark Jirobe (Under A Gaslit Lamp)
“My matchday ritual is to not sit down until the ref blows for kick-off (I even do this at home when watching the game on TV). Don’t even know why I do it!”Phil B (Twitter)
“If my son sat on my left for the previous game and we won, I will make sure he sits there for the next game too! I like to make sure nothing has changed”-Chris Ellis (Villa Together Podcast)
So why do fans engage in these eccentric practices when watching their team? This excellent blog piece on the Psychology of sports superstitions offered this –
“Dr. Mary Ingram-Waters, associate chair at Barrett Honors College, which is part of Arizona State University, explains that superstitions offer a way to control things that otherwise seem uncontrollable”
It seems to be a way of bringing yourself closer to an event over which you’re powerless. Such is the desire and hunger for your team to get the desired result, fans will try in whatever way possible to play their part. It’s the 12th man, but weirder.
“Not only do superstitions allow people to feel like they have some amount of control, they also let them feel like they are collectively doing everything in their power to bring about a favourable outcome”
It is apparent that fans want to do their bit, from raucously, vocally supporting their team, to praying, to refusing to sit prior to the game, we are all pulling together to positively affect the outcome.
Footballers themselves engage in all manner of unusual habits as part of their pre-game routine. According to Planet Football, Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea got caught short during Italia 90 prior to a last eight shootout against Yugoslavia and had to relieve himself on the pitch. Due to the positive result, Goycochea did so again against Italy for the semi final penalty victory. Planet Football also shed light on the ‘secret’ behind the France squads home soil World Cup win, Laurent Blanc instructed his team mates to plant a kiss on the bald head of keeper Fabien Barthez prior to each game.
You would be hard pushed to scientifically prove the efficacy of these superstitions, but the key seems to be in the psychology of it all. A tradition associated with victory and good fortune brings about a positive mindset, which invariably leads to better performance than extreme stress or worry. For the fans, a positive mindset and feeling they can affect the action is all part of the communal joy of football, being a part of and belonging to something.
What’s undoubtedly true is that it all adds another facet to the game we love, another layer of humanity to a sport which is threatened with automation and sanitisation at every turn.
I will leave you with some of the pre-match ceremonies of Villa podcaster Iain W Gee, who has, shall we say, more than most!
“I walk up the exact same set of steps on the Holte End and use the same turnstile for every game”
“I always account the home team to the left side of my body and the away team to the right! Very weird but just like you would read a fixture, so if we are the home team, I always put my left foot further forward than my right and my left hand on top of my right. On the way to the stadium, I climb up the steps to the Holte End and always start with my left foot”
“I’m also currently wearing shorts to watch all our games at home on the TV as I was wearing them when we stayed up at West Ham on the last day of the season and thus, they are now lucky”!
Up the Villa!
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