“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly’s quote is one that resonates within football to this day and it still rings true. It is a sport that is consistently high-stakes and results are imperative.
For all the exhilaration, joy and thrills football can offer, it can be a highly religious sport at times. Considering that sometimes luck does play a tremendous part deciding the outcome of football games, maybe there is some base to these practices.
However, here we take a look at 5 footballers who seem to always be on the short end of the stick.
Though in many cases it might be due to sheer coincidence or terrible luck these players have found their way onto this list for being “cursed” in one way or the other.
#1 Igor Akinfeev
The CSKA shot-stopper was once one of the most highly rated young goalkeepers on the planet with the likes of Manchester United keeping a constant tab on him.
Though a consistent performer in the league, lady luck seems to have all but abandoned him in European competitions. The Russian has an unwanted record of failing to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League for 40 consecutive games.
This October, his fortunes seem to have finally looked to take a turn for the better with Lacina Traore’s goal putting them 1-0 up against AS Monaco. Akinfeev made several excellent saves to preserve CSKA’s advantage before Bernardo’s goal just 3 minutes from time helped Monaco draw the game.
Akinfeev was understandably displeased, and it looks like he won’t be breaking his duck anytime soon.
Joining Benfica as a teenager in 1960, Eusebio played under the legendary Hungarian manager, Bela Guttman. With his radical tactics and a young gifted squad at his disposal, Guttman guided Benfica to two consecutive European cups, beating Real Madrid 5-3 in the latter.
Their impressive performances even led to Ferenc Puskas handing over his shirt to the young Eusebio.
Benfica looked set for years of continental dominance. But when the board refused to increase Guttman’s wages to reflect his excellent work on the pitch, the Hungarian coach quit and cursed Benfica, reportedly saying that they would never win a European Cup for another 100 years.
Benfica have since then lost the 7 European Cup finals they have reached, most recently in 1990 against Milan. Eusebio, desperate for a win, visited Guttman’s grave, requesting for the curse to be lifted.
However, it was not to be as Benfica went on to lose 1-0. Since then, they have reached 2 Europa League finals, losing to Chelsea and Sevilla.
It seems this curse will keep going strong until the 100 years foretold are well and truly up.
#3 Michael Ballack
It would seem harsh to call someone who has had so much success and won 5 league titles “cursed”, but Michael Ballack has had some truly atrocious luck over the years.
Ballack joined Bayer Leverkusen in 1999, and his team fought it out toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich for the league title. With the race boiling down to the last day and Leverkusen on 73 points to Bayern’s 70, a draw was all that was needed to guarantee them the league title. Ballack however, netted an owl goal and they went on to lose 2-0. With Bayern winning, a superior goal difference meant that the title went to Bavaria.
Two years later, redemption seemed at hand. Leverkusen were fighting it out for the Bundesliga, the cup and were in the finals of the Champions League, in what was to be an unprecedented treble for a German club.
They lost out on the league to Dortmund on the final day, the cup to Schalke and lost the Champions league to Real Madrid, with Zidane’s spectacular volley the highlight of that particular match.
To cap it all off, Ballack reached the finals of the FIFA World Cup with Germany that summer, but ended up on the losing side again, with Brazil running out 2-0 winners.
Since then, Ballack has definitely seen better days, but that horrendous run of finals will probably see him go down as one of the unluckiest footballers of all time.
#4 Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey has picked up the unfortunate tag of being a so-called “murderer”, with his goals for Arsenal usually followed up by the death of a well-known celebrity.
Initially a running joke, but the tally of Ramsey’s victims has kept on increasing. Dubbed as “The curse of Aaron Ramsey”, the notable people to have died after his goals are big names.
With Osama Bin Laden, Steve Jobs, Whitney Houston, Paul Walker, David Bowie and Alan Rickman all succumbing immediately after Ramsey’s strikes, it might as well seem like it has to do with something more than just pure coincidence.
However, his poor injury record in recent times has seen his game time limited at Arsenal and potentially saved further casualties in the celebrity world.
#5 Andres Escobar
Playing for the Colombian national team in the nineties, Escobar had the unfortunate luck of sharing a surname with one of the most notorious drug lords to have ever lived.
Unlike his name might suggest, he was known for his good behavior on the pitch and was aptly nicknamed “the gentleman of football.”
He was then called up to Colombia’s 1994 World Cup squad, a team that Brazilian great Pele tipped to win the competition. Naturally, the expectations were high and the pressure enormous.
With a 3-1 loss to Romania in the first game in the group stage, Colombia needed a result in their second game against USA to keep any hopes alive.
35 minutes into the match with the USA, Escobar diverted a cross into his own net, condemning Colombia to a 2-1 loss and crashing out of the tournament. With the squad returning home in disgrace, Escobar was understandably in a mood to forget his role in the loss.
He was confronted by 3 men, angered by his failure and was shot 6 times, succumbing to his wounds less than an hour later.
Only 27 years of age at the time and taken away from the beautiful game too soon, this is one curse we hope to never see repeated again.