The 2014 World Cup allows the best footballers on the planet to showcase their skills on the pitch – and their curious pregame rituals.
In the days leading up to this year’s tournament in Brazil, popular headphones brand “Beats by Dre” released a commercial entitled “The Game Before the Game.” The ad shows how the soccer world’s top stars, including Spain’s Cesc Fabregas, Brazil’s Neymar and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, prepare to perform despite the pressure exerted by the game’s biggest stage.
For example, Neymar, a 22-year-old phenom who scored a pair of goals in Brazil’s World Cup opener against Croatia, receives a pregame pep talk from his father. Meanwhile, Suarez kisses a tattoo on his wrist that bears the names of his son and daughter. The commercial is a huge hit among sports fans; at press time, it had amassed over 11 million unique views on YouTube.
Curious about the superstitions of other World Cup stars? Here’s a list of soccer’s most interesting pregame rituals.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Even a player widely regarded as the best soccer player isn’t immune to superstition. Portugal’s captain reportedly will not play a game unless he’s gotten a fresh haircut beforehand, EuroSport.com reports. He also has to be the first member of the Portuguese national team to enter the pitch.
2. Iker Casillas
Spain’s starting goalkeeper is known to be one of soccer’s most superstitious characters. For years, Casillas wore his socks inside-out during matches, but he’s reportedly abandoned that ritual. However, he still touches the crossbar every time his team scores.
3. Cesc Fabregas
As revealed during his appearance in the “Beats by Dre” commercial, Fabregas, a star midfielder for the Spanish national team, kisses a ring given to him by his girlfriend four times.
4. Kolo Toure
A legendary member of the Ivory Coast national team, Kolo Toure insists on being the last player from his team to walk onto the playing field. Toure’s obsession with this pregame ritual runs so deep that he once missed the start of the second half of a Champions League game while waiting for a teammate to precede him.
5. Javier Hernandez
The Mexican national team’s star striker drops to his knees in prayer before each World Cup match. He reportedly inherited the ritual from his father, who also represented his country at an international level.
6. Leighton Baines
Baines’ pregame ritual was already on full display last Saturday, when England played Italy in its World Cup opener. Before each match, the 29-year-old left back walks onto the field, then unties and reties his shoelaces. “My pregame ritual does my head,” he once told Liverpool Echo. “[…] I don’t know why I do it.”
7. Ghanaian "Witch Doctor"
Supporters of the Ghanaian national team are so intense that one of them claims to have resorted to witchcraft ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Nana Kwaku Bonsam, a “witch doctor,” told a radio station in Ghana that he put a curse on Ronaldo’s knee. As it happens, Ronaldo did suffer from knee tendinitis before the World Cup, a condition serious enough to limit his preparation for the event. Ghana and Portugal will face each other in Group G action on Thursday.
8. Laurent Blanc
The 1998 World Cup bore witness to one of the most famous pregame rituals in the sport’s history. Before each match, French defender Laurent Blanc would kiss the bald head of the team’s goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez. The move worked: France went on to defeat Brazil to win its first World Cup trophy.