It’s fútbol time! If you’re a soccer fan, like me, the next four and a half weeks are going to be exciting. We’ll witness astonishing ball skills, tactical genius, lots of grit and feats of stamina, and the occasional on-pitch thuggery (four years ago, the Dutch team played a series of shocking anything-goes World Cup games so brutal they would’ve made Attila the Hun blush).
But something else is going to be on clear display: superstition. Whether it’s players’ lucky underwear, their habit of kissing a cross-shaped pendant prior to kick-off, or, after scoring a goal, pointing to the sky in praise of the Creator, unabashedly irrational behavior will be rampant. (England’s Gary Lineker was famous for not shooting on goal during the pre-game warm-up, as he thought he’d be “wasting” perfectly good goal-scoring opportunities.)
The superstition marathon started right on cue yesterday. Before the opening game between Brazil and Croatia, the Croatian goalkeeper, Stipe Pletikosa, could be seen making the sign of the cross. Granted, that’s now so common among athletes as to be unremarkable. However, via allsports.com, we learn that
Croatia’s No. 1 is a devoted Catholic and has a routine before each game: he leans on the woodwork and says a prayer which he believes protects him from getting injured and helps him focus. He also always wears a T-shirt with the Virgin Mary underneath his goalkeeper jersey.
Well, fine. Different strokes for different folks. And we have to hand it to the Holy Mother — Pletikosa sustained no injury yesterday, except the one to his pride when he saw three of Brazil’s shots blow past him into the net, costing his team the match. Evidently, no higher power listened to Croatian players’ and fans’ request for a historic victory.
Before the ref blows the tournament’s final whistle, God will surely be telepathically contacted by hundreds of millions of soccer aficionados begging for divine favors — most of whom will never give a thought to the interesting reality that the fans of the opposing squad are asking for the exact same celestial benefits for their team.
P.S.: I obviously don’t know the mind of the Almighty, but I have a hunch that when it comes to soccer, He disregards the enormous amount of prayers at World Cup time, seeing as they tend to cancel each other out. Most likely, God prefers the more manageable Clericus Cup, a Vatican-sponsored alternative in which the players are seminary students from all over the world. The team from the U.S. is called the North American Martyrs (no, I’m not making that up).
Given the holiness level of the event, fouls ought not to be a factor during Clericus Cup matches. In reality,
Stats from last year showed that despite all good intentions, some of the 386 players involved in Clericus Cup series got carded 68 times over the course of the season’s 64 games. The yellow card for a foul or unsportsmanlike conduct was brandished 62 times and the red card, which results in expulsion from the game, was wielded six times.
That’s OK. Even with that kind of hotheaded excess, seminarians playing soccer still beats priests wrestling children.
(Image via Shutterstock)