Hoodoo you call to break a losing streak? The pope, of course
Extreme or unusual methods have been used to lift curses in sport. One team even called the pontiff for help
Sportsmen tend to be a superstitious lot.
From John Terry using the same urinal at Stamford Bridge to Steve Waugh always keeping a red rag in his pocket, changing rooms are a hive of routines and rituals. So the idea of a curse being placed on a team is enough to cause paroxysms of panic.
Generally, these are winless or trophyless runs that are retrospectively attributed to a Romany gypsy’s curse or the presence of a particular ill-fated individual.
The latest such malediction has been associated with Canadian rapper Drake.
There is a certain correlation between his presence and the loss of the team he is supporting.
The list of teams and athletes he has condemned to defeat include the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL playoffs, Serena Williams before she was knocked out of the US Open by an unranked player, and UFC fighter Conor McGregor before his defeat by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
So how do you end such a hex?
For the Toronto Raptors’ decisive NBA playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Drake attempted to reverse the curse by wearing a pair of 76ers shorts. It worked. Just before the buzzer sounded, the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard let go a shot that bounced four times on the rim before dropping in to give the Canadian team a 92-90 win.
It is far from the most extreme or unusual method that has been used to lift a curse.
When Birmingham City built St Andrew’s in 1906, a group of Romany travellers was forced to make way and placed a 100-year hex on the new ground.
In the 1980s, manager Ron Saunders tried to end the curse by placing crucifixes around the floodlights and painting the bottom of his players’ boots red.
Another Blues manager, Barry Fry, literally took matters into his own hands by urinating in all four corners of the pitch after consulting a clairvoyant.
Fry later reflected on the episode in his typically understated manner.
“Did it work? Well, we started to win, and I thought it had, then they f****ng sacked me, so probably not,” Fry told Four Four Two magazine.
The more traditional approach in these matters is to go directly to the source of the curse.
When Derby County similarly upset members of the Romani community in constructing the Baseball Ground, their punishment was never to win the FA Cup again.
They subsequently lost their next three finals, prompting club captain Jack Nicholas to pay some Romani travellers to lift the curse before their 1946 final against Charlton Athletic. Derby won 4-1.
Similarly, the Australia football team provoked the ire of a Mozambique witchdoctor they had failed to pay for performing a good-luck ritual before a 1970 World Cup qualifier.
The nyunga reversed his ritual and Australia went 32 years without qualifying for a world cup until an enterprising Australian journalist travelled to Mozambique and paid a witchdoctor to break the spell.
The Socceroos have since qualified for the past four World Cups.
An even higher authority was consulted by the Mayo Gaelic football team who have been cursed since 1951.
So the legend goes that in celebrating winning the All-Ireland final, they failed to pay respect to a passing funeral.
The attending priest said they would not win another final until every member of the team had died.
They have since reached eight finals and lost them all, but last year Pope Francis was asked to sign a jersey.
We await to see whether His Holiness’ autograph has the desired effect.Yet sometimes the attempts to interfere with bad karma can backfire.Like in 2008, when Midlands Portland Cement, a Zimbabwean football team, were told by their coach to cleanse themselves in the Zambezi river to rid themselves of bad spirits following some poor recent form.Not only did one of their players drown in the crocodile-infested river, but there was no upturn in form.– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)