What you wear, where you sit, where you go to the bathroom—it all matters to us Albicelestes
If there is one thing I know about my fellow Argentina fans it’s that we are as superstitious as we are noisy and boisterous. With Argentina in the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 24 years (and the first time in my lifetime), it’s become apparent to me that our supporters have become more serious than ever with their pre-match rituals.
Can you blame us? How has it taken the national team this long to get to the final four with the talent we’ve had? With Batistuta, Redondo, Riquelme, Ortega, Simeone, Zanetti, Crespo, Saviola? Something else must have been at work.
One group I know gets together in a house to watch the match—nothing unusual there—but once they do, they don’t change seats for the next 45 minutes. Then they must remember to get back to their assigned seat after halftime because if they are not in their original positions for the remaining 45, they will only have themselves to blame if something goes wrong. They must also sing along to the national anthem because there is nothing that could risk our chances of being world champions again more than not being patriotic enough.
There is even the hashtag #CabalaMundial (#WorldCupRitual) on Twitter where fans post the odd ways they’re supporting their team. (One teenager actually locks her sister in her room until the match is over.) For the 2010 World Cup, fans went as far as creating a website that could let you join in the plea to get Lionel Messi to sport Maradona’s iconic 1986 curls, because who knows? If Batigol couldn’t get us to the semis, why not try Messi in a perm.
My personal superstitious rituals are pretty standard and include wearing my new Argentine jersey for every match. Also, my family members have decided that we will not speak with one another during the games, as one of us could potentially jinx everything. Trust me, one does not want to feel the guilt that comes with being the jinx of the family.
Superstitious rituals aren’t just a thing for the fans, though. Former Argentine head coach Carlos Bilardo, who led us to victory in 1986, is famous for being very superstitious. Some of his rituals included making assigned seats on the bus, using the same police to escort the team to the stadium, and the bus driver always had to play the end of Sergio Denis’s “Gigante Chiquito” as they would approach the arena. On one occasion, Bilardo made his players attend a wedding ceremony at the hotel where the team was staying and, starting with Diego Maradona, they had to go and kiss the bride for good luck. But his most notorious superstition was in the 1990 World Cup. In the quarterfinal against Yugoslavia, goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea had to urinate on the field surrounded by his teammates because he couldn’t leave the pitch to go to the bathroom before the penalty shootout. Goycochea ended up blocking two penalty shots and Argentina was on to the next round. Bilardo took this as an omen and made him urinate on the field before the semifinal penalty shootout against Italy. He ended up blocking two more shots and Argentina were through to the finals (which they then lost to West Germany).
Superstition among the Argentine coaching staff is very much alive. Before the match against Iran, current coach Alejandro Sabella asked FIFA if the bench at the Mineirão could be moved to the where it was when he won the Copa Libertadores as a coach with Estudiantes against Cruzeiro in that same stadium five years before. FIFA denied his request but Argentina still won. The current team is also staying in rooms numbered 1–20, but switching the unlucky 13 to 33 and the disgraceful, tragic number 17 to 77.
Now, for a confession: I have worn (but washed!!!) the same light blue underwear for every match Argentina has played thus far in Brazil—and we have won every single game. I’m not saying my irrational, wacky, slightly insane strategy has had a direct impact on Argentina’s success in this World Cup. But it could just possibly make us world champions.