TotalFootball
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TotalFootball

GoalPost #13: The Triskaideka edition

Superstitions, Psychics and Geniuses

“crowd watching football game inside the stadium” by Mitch Rosen on Unsplash

Superstitions

Synopsis

A light read to start off given our theme. Some amusing superstitions in here ranging from garlic cloves to the relatively more “conventional” voodoo!

My View

Superstitions are part of life and inevitably creep into football as well. Maybe they are just a “mental thing” or maybe they are indeed real, as seen in the examples of Pele’s lucky shirt and Cruyff’s chewing gum. Are superstitions merely casual correlations or are they causal correlations? We judge differently based on our experiences. Often when the data set is small, superstitions seem credible. In the long run, they usually are debunked. Closely related to superstition are omens. These usually come to the fore in competitions like the World Cup. For a while, a team losing a game in the first round never ended up becoming champion. Spain changed that in 2010. In the European Championships, since 1984, the hosts have generally exited the competition in dramatic fashion. This year, when it was a multi-cast host, the entire tournament was cancelled. Spooky!

Paul the Octopus

Synopsis

As far as predictions go, no one quite took the world by storm as Paul the Octopus did in the 2010 World Cup. To the relief of knowledge seekers (and inevitable disappointment of romantics), there is a scientific explanation for Paul’s amazingly accurate selections.

My View

Superstitions, omens and predictions add colour to the beautiful game. Predicting the future is a natural curiosity. Paul’s ability to get things right was amazing and spawned off other clones where other birds and animals were picking results, although with (much) less accuracy. Prediction is difficult and as the saying goes, in football anything can happen. Be it heuristics or deep data analysis, prediction can never always be true. As the sport becomes more lucrative and teams compete vigorously, results can go either way more often than not. Indeed, in the modern game, even winning alone is not enough. It must be done with style. In the broader scheme of things, predictions are usually just amusement endeavours. Although when an octopus or bird or animal does it, it’s irresistibly appealing.

Gerd Muller (#13)

Synopsis

Der Bomber’s exploits rarely need too much background. The most famous wearer of the #13 shirt, Gerd Muller was a scoring machine, who held his own in an era where his contemporaries included Pele, Cruyff, Moore and Eusebio. An opportunistic poacher of the highest pedigree, Muller’s scoring records in the World Cup, and for Germany stood for decades (32–40 years to be precise) until Ronaldo and, Klose overtook him, both having played more games than Muller to reach those landmarks.

My View

While Gerd Muller is still the all-time leading scorer in the Bundesliga, his record of 85 goals in a calendar year, was finally bettered by Messi. It would take Messi 9 more games (69 vs 60) and 40 years to better it by 6 goals. Muller though has a better goals-per-game ratio. Muller’s long-standing exploits have immortalized the #13 jersey. The great Eusebio also wore #13 and so did the outstanding Michael Ballack. While trophies may have eluded them, there was no stopping Muller. The 1974 World Cup Final pitched the greatest ever players to don the #13 and #14 jerseys against each other. While Cruyff’s Oranje won hearts, the German #13 scored the winner.

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