Garrett Halfhill: “There are some players who I have played with in the past that they had to hype themselves up in the bathroom mirror before every single game.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Yelling into a mirror.
Smoking a cigarette.
And praying while holding rosary beads on a plane.
Yes, some soccer players have some intriguing superstitious and rituals and those are just part of the proverbial iceberg.
None of those aforementioned rituals are followed by members of the New York Cosmos, but those players who have had teammates who had done some interesting habits. Today, being Friday the 13th, is a good way to look at superstitious soccer players.
“I can’t say I’m really a superstitious guy,” center back Garrett Halfhill said. “Maybe a little bit in college. My coach was a little quirky with that stuff, making sure you do the same exact thing on every time you play a certain team. Back in the day, it was not stepping on a crack during game day. But there’s nothing crazy like that anymore.”
But Halfhill has witnessed some crazy stuff.
“There are some players who I have played with in the past that they had to hype themselves up in the bathroom mirror before every single game,” he said. “If they didn’t do it, they knew they weren’t going to play well. … He would yell, get himself going, scream at himself, kind of hyped himself up with the way his physical appearance looked.”
So, did it work for him?
“Yeah, he played well a lot,” Halfhill said. “He was a very good player.”
Isaac Acuna, who scored the game-winning goal in the 1-0 home win over Napa Valley 1839 FC last Saturday, remembered one teammate who was really smoking.
“I had a friend who used to always have a cigarette before the game,” he said. “It helps him because he scores a lot of goals.”
Hopefully, his coach doesn’t know about that.
“No, that was a long time ago,” Acuna said.
Recently signed midfielder Michael Kafari said he had one too many teammates who was afraid of flying.
“They have to do something, some kind of ritual before,” he said. “I had a guy, a teammate in college. He was saying a prayer, a rosary in his hand, on the plane. And I never wanted to sit next to him because he made me nervous.”
During his days at LIU Brooklyn, midfielder Giuseppe Barone remembered one teammate who brushed his teeth.
“One guy would always brush his teeth,” he said. “Even though he brushed it in the morning and we got to the afternoon, and we had a game, he was brushing it again. And before you know it he was brushing his teeth four, five times a day.”
As for their own superstitions, Cosmos players don’t do many, if any, crazy things. They, more or less, follow some rituals prior to games.
“I don’t think any of the guys on this team is superstitious,” Kafari said.
Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes, who had a 15-year professional career, saw his share of superstitions and pre-game rituals.
“I played for a coach for the New York Cosmos who was very superstitious,” he said with a smile and a laugh. Mendes did not expound on what Giovanni Savarese did.
“So, it’s been around me. I’m not a very superstitious person and don’t look into those things too much.”
Mendes has seen plenty of teammates dress the same way.
“Some guys nap, some guys don’t,” he said. “Me, I never liked to sleep on game day because I would feel groggy.”
Striker Aly Hassan puts on his uniform the same way for every match.
“I put my right everything on first,” he said. “My right foot in my shorts, my right sock on, right shoe, right shinguard, always my right foot first.
“Everything is my right side first. I’m right-handed, left footed, so it’s a little bit of both. That’s something that definitely doesn’t fail every game. I don’t even slip up ever.”
Left fullback-midfielder Ansi Agolli, a former member of the Azerbaijan national team who had competed in the UEFA Champions League, even has some of his own rituals.
“I have my own way to prepare the game,” he said. “Everybody does. I do the things the same way every week. Especially the week we win, I do the things the same way. The same socks that i used last week. Same food, maybe. I don’t change the food. Doing things at the same time. Same [liquids] drinking.”
Ditto for Barone, who has liked to wear a type of underwear for games. “I’m comfortable with it,” he said.
He also has worn a pair of socks underneath his team uniform’s socks.
Several players claimed they did not have any superstitions or rituals, for that matter.
“No, I don’t,” Acuna said. “It’s always different. I’m always thanking God to give me the opportunity to play soccer, to be healthy. And that’s it. I don’t do anything. I don’t put crosses in my shoes. I am normal guy.”