By Dan Parry
To paraphrase a certain soul singer, football is very superstitious. In a game where the margins are so fine, some footballers, managers and fans will turn to the dark arts in order to give their side even the slightest edge. Whether that be: always wearing a particular item of clothing, adhering to a pre-match ritual or uttering a certain word at an opportune element; even the most non-spiritual person might have their own method for guaranteeing the favour of the footballing gods. The psychological impacts of such rituals have long been debated, but there is no doubting that football has an extremely close and fascinating relationship with superstition.
In Argentina, a land famous for its superstitious inhabitants, a one form of jinxing an opponent comes in the form of the word ‘quiricocho’. The expression is said a number of times whenever the other team finds itself in an advantageous position, typically penalties or free-kicks. It must be spoken at the exact right moment and if you are lucky, the result will be a complete implosion and the averting of danger for your side.
Thanks to the influx of South Americans footballers and managers to Europe, on a couple of occasions in recent history quiricocho has entered the public sphere on this side of the planet. For example, during the 2014 World Cup semi-final Enzo Perez could be seen directing quiricochos at the Dutch penalty takers, and more recently in Prime Video’s ‘Six Dreams’ Girona’s Sporting Director Quique Cárcel is shown muttering the incantation as an Eibar player steps up to take a free-kick in a dangerous position.
As with most superstitions, the origin is fascinating. A veritable legend created through a perfect mix of fact, myth and mystery.
Dates and details are a bit flimsy but allegedly the tale begins in the 60’s with Estudiantes de La Plata and a man named Quiricocho. The story goes that the poor, beleaguered Estudiantes fan began to believe he was a footballing jonas after his side lost every time he saw them play. Fed up of being the bringer of bad omens he decided to use his powers to help the team.
With the help of a friend who worked at the club, before every match Quiricocho would wait in the car-park and transfer his dreadful luck to the opposition players by giving them a simple pat on the back as they entered the stadium. It is said the plan was so successful that it helped Estudiantes become the champions (most likely the 1967 Campeonato Metropolitano) that season thanks to his antics. Supposedly, they lost only once against Boca Juniors, whose private security meant that Quiricocho was unable to get close enough deliver his cursed touch to the players.
The legend of Quiricocho soon became so widespread among the fans that they took to repeating his name before every penalty or dangerous play in the hope that they could bring forth the curse and pass it on.
In recent years, world cup winning coach and Estudiantes player of that era, Carlos Salvador Bilardo (also quite well known for his superstitious antics) offered his own, slightly more realistic, version of events on the Quiricocho story.
“He was a youth player at the club, he was always around and he became our good luck charm as we won the Championship that year. He was a good kid but after that I never saw him again. The last time I was managing the club I asked about him but nobody knew what happened to him.”
According to Bilardo, During his spell as manager at Sevilla he was shocked to hear someone behind him murmuring the hex when his side conceded a penalty. It turns out that they had learnt the expression from Diego Siemeone and Maradona.
The former, more romanticised version of quiricocho is dubious at best. But like all great stories the truth probably lies somewhere between the lines. So, why ruin quiricocho with the truth anyway?
Football has a unique place in society when it comes to the convergence of culture, psychology, language and folklore; quiricocho is a brilliant example of this phenomenon. Language is the most powerful tool that humankind has, and even in football words like ‘quiricocho’ will always transmit a certain energy and mystique. Especially when it rolls of the tongue so nicely…
quiricocho, quiricocho, quiricocho.
Header image from: https://www.estudiantesdelaplata.com/futbol/equipos-historicos/
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