Quirks, oddities & rituals
Kiraly's tracksuit bottoms
Goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly is not only Hungary's record appearance-maker; he also became famous globally for his grey tracksuit bottoms. Unlike his team-mates, he did not wear shorts but instead donned some very loose and long cotton pants. Kiraly always wore them – irrespective of whether they were soaked through by the rain or drenched with sweat in the heat of summer. The fact that he pulled on the pants in the first place was something of a coincidence: in 1994, the kitman at his Hungarian club Szombathely forgot the actual goalkeeping shorts and only grey sweatpants were available. With them on, his team won nine matches in a row. That prompted Kiraly to wear them until the end of his career in 2019. He never wore the cosy pants privately – they were his work clothes after all.
Eric Cantona was not only an outstanding forward; he also gained notoriety for being a hot-head who attacked an opposition fan with an iconic kung-fu kick. Another well-known fact is that he tended wear the collar of his shirt up during his time at Manchester United, which became his trademark look. "It got quite cold in a match once and my collar stayed up by coincidence. We won the game and then I made a habit of it," Cantona later explained. They went on to win many more games. The supporters simply called the Frenchman, who guided Man Utd to four titles in five years, "Le Roi" – which translates to the king in English.
Havertz & Sané's long-sleeved shirts
Germany internationals Kai Havertz and Leroy Sané always wear long-sleeved jerseys, regardless of the weather. But there's no particular reason for this; the two attacking stars simply prefer it that way. Their famous role model is probably David Beckham, who also almost exclusively wore long sleeves throughout his career.
Benzema's bandaged hand
More and more players are now taking to the field with bandaged hands and forearms, but it's not always necessarily due to injury. Karim Benzema, who always plays with a bandaged right hand, was the trendsetter in this respect. He has continued to wear the special protection since suffering a fractured hand in 2019 – even though the injury has long since healed. Young players are now following in his footsteps – such as Bayern youngsters Mathys Tel, who wears the bandage solely as a good-luck charm.
Bale 's holey socks
In addition to bandaged hands, there is an increasing number of players whose socks have large or small holes in them. Welshman Gareth Bale was one of the first to pick up the scissors, believing it would reduce the pressure on his calf muscles. More and more players are following suit nowadays, such as TSG U23 player Justin Che. The Italian central defender Giorgio Chiellini wore "broken" socks in a game at the U21 European Championship 15 years ago – but the reason back then was simply that his legs were too warm.
Lattek's lucky pullover
When Udo Lattek took a blue sweater out of his wardrobe on the first matchday of the 1987/1988 season, the former sporting director of 1. FC Cologne could not have known that it would become legendary. The Cologne team started off with a run of nine wins and five draws, with Lattek always wearing the lucky sweater. It wasn't until Matchday 15 that Cologne's run came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Werder Bremen. TSG are also well-acquainted with special sweaters for special occasions.
Rosen's transfer jumper
That's because director of football Alexander Rosen always wears his favourite black sweater when it comes to contract extensions or transfers. Fans of TSG Hoffenheim know in advance that an announcement is coming when TSG post a photo of the 43-year-old in this particular outfit on social media.
Many players celebrate their goals artistically, but nobody is as closely associated with the somersault as World Cup record goalscorer Miroslav Klose. When he scored the goal that broke the record at the 2014 World Cup, the iconic celebration made a long-awaited comeback – but he could not fully land on his feet and didn't quite pull it off. "I didn't really want to do that one anymore at my age," said Klose, who was so pleased with his place in the history books, however, that he didn't feel like a 36-year-old for a brief moment.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who became known in Germany for his time at Borussia Dortmund, was willing to accept a booking for his goal celebrations: the speedy Gabon international celebrated his goals by pulling on superhero masks of Batman, Spiderman or the Black Panther. He does this mainly for his son. At one point, Marco Reus also joined in his celebration, donning a mask of Batman's sidekick Robin alongside Aubameyang.
What is known as a swallow (Schwalbe) in German is called a dive in the English-speaking world. In his early days at Tottenham Hotspur, Jürgen Klinsmann was often said to have a tendency to go down easily. The future German national team coach took it with good humour – by diving and subsequently sliding across the pitch on his belly after scoring a goal, as his way of silencing the critics.
Toni's rotating hand
When Italian striker Luca Toni scored, everyone knew what would come next. The former Bayern player would rotate his hand next to his ear. In Italy, this gesture means "Avete capito?", which translates as "Did you get that?".
Gnabry's pot stirring
The TSG fans were left marvelling at this celebration on several occasions: Serge Gnabry likes to stir an imaginary pot after finding the net. He didn't invent this gesture himself, however; he copied it from basketball star James Harden, who likes to let off steam after scoring several baskets – much like the soup he is stirring.
Lineker's deliberate misses
Gary Lineker was one of the best strikers in Europe in the 1980s and enthralled the fans of Leicester, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and the England national team with many a goal. But he would only ever find the net during the 90 minutes – and never during the pre-match warm-up. Lineker deliberately didn't score, in the hope of saving his goals for the game.
Müller's big boots
Nicknamed "The Nation's Bomber", Gerd Müller scored goals unlike almost any other – but here's a curious piece of background info: Müller's shoe size was actually a 38 but he always played in size 41 shoes. As we all know, the big boots did not do him any harm.
Touré's late entrance
Kolo Touré, a centre-back for Arsenal and Liverpool among others, was always the last to run out onto the pitch. This even led to him once not wanting to go back out after the half-time interval because a teammate was still being treated in the dressing room. As a result, Arsenal started the second period of their Champions League match against AS Roma with two players fewer. But the defender stuck to his principles.
Domenech's star sign obsession
Raymond Domenech was the coach that guided France to the 2006 World Cup final – but when he selected his squad back then, he didn't go exclusively by performances. Robert Pires was not called up because his star sign, Scorpio, was not synonymous with team spirit.
Blanc's bald head
The focus on star signs might not have brought France the title, but another ritual brought more luck: Laurent Blanc kissed his goalkeeper Fabien Barthez's bald head before every game. It helped: the French became world champions on home soil in 1998 and European champions two years later in the Netherlands and Belgium, with a kiss on Barthez's bald head before each game. Laurent Blanc, by the way, was a Scorpio.
Cristiano Ronaldo always has a fixed seat in whatever means of transport he is taking to travel to matches. He always sits at the back of the team bus and at the front of the plane. It is unclear whether there is a particular reason for this.
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