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Their own wine labels, sugary superstitions, the strange curse of a famous nutty spread and demands for fresh ingredients in players' rooms.
As fans around the world eagerly anticipate the opening of the Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brazil, we sit down to examine some of the funny stories involving food, drink and football. From the England striker who ate too many sweets, to Paul - the octopus that managed to predict the result of every game played by Germany in the 2010 World Cup, plus the mysterious 1998 rumour that the Brazilian wonder kid Ronaldo was poisoned just hours before the final.
Australia will be up and out early during the World Cup thanks to a strong caffeine hit in the morning. In a move that would seem more at home in the Italian camp, the Aussies have asked that each player have a coffee machine and selection of newspapers available every morning in their room.
Ecuador is the world’s fifth largest producer of bananas and it seems their love for the fruit extends across the National team. Hotel owners in charge of looking after the Ecuadorian players must ensure there's a fresh basket of bananas every day for each player, the variety must change and they must be from Ecuador - even if Brazil produces over 7 million tonnes of the fruit every year.
The U.S. soccer team, managed by legendary German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, will stay at the luxury Tivoli São Paulo Mofarrej hotel. The team will have fresh fruit and honey cake replenished daily, plus meals from the two Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola. They will also swim in a pool that looks like it’s full of orange juice thanks to a clever optical illusion - perhaps the English squad are hoping for Danny Welbeck and Glen Johnson to cook up some post match suppers.
David Ginola - once branded “the assassin of French football” after a mistake in a 1994 qualifier against Bulgaria that saw a much needed 1-1 draw reduced to a 2-1 defeat in the very last minutes, all thanks to his mishit pass - has had a turbulent relationship with the French National team. However, after finishing his career, he did adapt very well to one of his country’s biggest known exports, wine. The ex-international footballer was given an award in 2008 for his Coste Brulade rose wine - described as a smooth blend with a gentle strawberry flavor.
Ginola joins passmaster general and Spanish ace Andrés Iniesta who opened a vineyard near his home Fuentealbilla, plus the Italian central commander Andrea Pirlo who owns a vineyard that produces around 15,000 to 20,000 bottles a year. The wine and football link is quite strong. Argentinean ace, Messi, the one who many hope will finally perform to his best at World Cup, works with a winery in Argentina on a range of four wines. They’re made with classic Argentinian grapes; Malbec for the reds and Torrontes for the whites and produced under the label Leo.
Even his wines looks like they would be better at football than you.
Long beards left for months, don’t touch the cup before the final, drinking from one side of the mouth - footballers are a superstitious bunch and will go to great lengths to keep any type of jinx away from the team. The German National team, regarded as one of the European favourites in Brazil, actually have a fear of Nutella spread - all stemming from a superstition that any player who appears in an advert for the company suddenly sees their career on the pitch plummet.
In Germany they call it the Nutella Fluch and, like most things in the country, it's taken seriously. Young players used to be called up every year to feature in commercials for the spread, only to then find themselves putting in lacklustre performances in games that followed. The company eventually stopped producing the adverts after players started boycotting the opportunity, afraid they’d be taken down by a breakfast spread enjoyed across Europe, predominantly, by children.
There’s also a number of funny stories concerning the ex-England striker Peter Beardsley, a talented player who would irritate every manager he worked with by constantly eating sweets. It seems for Beardsley it was more habit than superstition, but try to picture Christiano Ronaldo sitting on the plane with the Portuguese National team eating a bag of Haribo. It's something unimaginable in today’s modern game packed with nutritionalists and dieticians.
They've been Tangoed - Swimming Pool for the U.S. National team.
Perhaps one of the most mysterious stories comes from World Cup 1998. Held in France, the competition saw the host nation face off against Brazil but just over an hour before the final, fans gasped at the announcement that Brazil’s star striker, Ronaldo, would not be playing. It was just 30 minutes before kick off when the team sheet was changed to include the player with no explanation given as to why his name has originally been left out.
He played the game but was not his usual self, creating a few chances but failing to score. The event led to media speculation around the world, plus an official investigation back in Brazil as to what has exactly happened. It turns out that the ball juggling maestro had suffered a seizure in his hotel room just hours before the game, been taken to hospital, examined and eventually cleared to play. All with doctors still unsure what had caused the problem.
The event is still one of football’s big mysteries with a number of conspiracy theories around what happened. Some say it was a reaction to an injection he’d been given, some say it was the pressure placed on a young 21-year-old expected to score goals, and some even claim he was poisoned - a suggestion that at first sounds crazy - but it wouldn’t be the first time. During the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the English goalkeeper Gordon Banks missed the game against West Germany after drinking what many believe to have been a spiked beer. An incident Banks references in his autobiography, saying he felt very ill just 30 minutes after drinkng the beer. England went on to loose the game 3-2, missing their star keeper throughout.
Let’s not forget the legend that is, Paul the Octopus. The famous eight legged superstar that managed to predict the result of every German game in the 2010 World Cup, including the final, by choosing to eat from two boxes displaying different flags. Paul sadly died shortly after the competition but enjoyed more fame in his two and a half year life than most reality TV stars do in 20.
For 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that China have employed a crack team, yes not a regular team, but a crack team of baby pandas to predict games by picking food from baskets suspended in certain trees. Who knows how these Ninja pandas achieved their crack level of training but they're going to have to know a lot about the beautiful game to compete with Paul and his success rate of 85%.