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The Guttman curse and other curious football phenomena

Sevilla FC v SL Benfica - UEFA Europa League Final

The curse strikes again

Benfica’s defeat to Sevilla in last night’s UEFA Europa League Final in the Juventus Stadium, continued the Lisbon club’s suffering at the hands of the ‘Bela Guttman curse’. Guttman, who led The Eagles to back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962 put a curse on the club after seeing his request for a salary increase refused and his subsequent departure.

‘Not in a  hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions’

Since then, Benfica have competed in eight European finals, losing each and every one. The curse has cast and long and dark shadow over the Estadio da Luz. Last night’s defeat further compounded the club’s misery on the European stage having also lost in last year’s final to Chelsea.

Here, we look at other cases of curses in professional football.

Derby County and the Romany Gypsies

When Derby County built the Baseball Ground in the 19th century, it forced a group of Romany Gypsies to leave the site. In response, they placed a curse on the Rams; that they would never win the FA Cup. Soon after, Derby lost three cup finals in the space of six years. Upon reaching the final again in 1946, club captain Jack Nicholson paid Gypsies to lift the curse; with the score 1-1, the ball burst – a sign of the curse lifting – and Derby would go on to win 4-1.

The Socceroos and a Witch Doctor

During a trip to play against Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the 1970 World Cup Qualifier in Mozambique, members of the Socceroos consulted a witch doctor.

The witch doctor buried bones near the goal posts and cursed the opposition, and Australia went on to beat Rhodesia 3-1.

However, the move backfired when the players could not come up with the £1000 demanded by the witch doctor as payment and he subsequently cursed the team. The Socceroos failed to beat Israel and did not qualify.

The curse was supposedly lifted by Australian documentary maker, John Safran during his 2004 TV series John Safran vs God.
After reading the story in Warren’s book, Safran travelled to Mozambique and hired a new witch doctor to reverse the “Socceroos Curse.”

The following year, the Socceroos not only qualified for the 2006 World Cup, but were quite successful, reaching the second round before finally falling to Italy with a last kick of the game penalty in Kaiserslautern.

América de Cali and a Dentist

Fans of Colombian side América de Cali feel the club has been cursed since 1948. A local dentist, one of the club’s most passionate fans, was opposed to the idea of the team turning professional.

“If the team ever becomes professional,” said Benjamin Urrea, better known as Garabato, “I swear to God that no matter what they do they will never be champions.”

They did not win a domestic championship for 30 years – at which point, according to the Fifa website, Urrea and a group of fans performed an exorcism at América’s stadium. They won their first national title the following season. (Other reports suggest the exorcism was performed by a singer and a journalist after they had won the title.) Either way, it was the first of 12 championships in a golden 23-year period.

However, many feel the Curse of Garabato still holds: América have never been champions of South America, having finished as runners-up in the Copa Libertadores on four occasions.

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