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Superstitious French football coach
« Online: 10 de Novembro de 2005, 20:34:20 »
Goalie selection delayed by astrology issue
By James Christie
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Thursday, November 10, 2005

The coach of France's national soccer team declined to name a No. 1 goalkeeper for his World Cup-bound side this week because, he said, the stars weren't aligned properly.

The message from sport psychologists to coach Raymond Domenech: get Sirius.

Domenech was supposed to identify his top choice at a news conference on Tuesday, but after checking astrological charts, he left keepers Fabien Barthez and Gregory Coupet hanging in limbo.

"I consulted the stars: It was not the right day," Domenech said at a training camp in Martinique. "I had to admit we were too far away from the date [of the World Cup]. There's no urgency."

The stars have influenced Domenech before.

The coach of the world's fifth-ranked squad has said he does not trust players born under the sign of Scorpio -- such as Arsenal's Robert Pires -- and that Leos do not make good defenders because they have a tendency to show off.

Superstitions and quirky beliefs have a long history in sport.

In hockey, perhaps the best-known was that of former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Red Kelly, who one year espoused pyramid power and had players sit with pyramids under the bench and place their sticks under another pyramid during the playoffs.

The next year, he believed a spray can of negative ions would magically boost the team's fortunes.

By and large, such behaviours are harmless, as long as they concern only the individual athlete or coach, sport psychologist Judy Goss said. But they can also become problematic.

"Superstition is about feeling comfortable," Goss said. "There's often no basis in what's being done.

"However, we try to teach athletes about getting a routine they're comfortable with before an event. An athlete controls a routine.

"Routine preparation, that calms you, makes you comfortable and confident, whereas a superstition is something that controls you. That's what makes it different."

An athlete might have a ritual -- donning a uniform in a certain way, taking so many practice swings of a baseball bat or kissing a necklace -- and those are fine, so long as the athlete has complete control over them, Goss said.

It can be soothing and put the athlete in his or her ideal performance state, she said. But superstition sets in if that ritual is disturbed and it becomes an issue for the athlete or coach. It can lead to nervousness and distraction that hurt performance, she said.

"It's never a problem until it concerns things beyond your control," she said. "A player who must put on the left skate before the right is fine.

"The player who has to be first on the ice every time needs to control the action of everyone else on the team."

In the case of France's goalkeepers, the coach's stargazing may be laughable to outsiders, but it may be insulting to the players. Barthez, after all, has been a World Cup winner and the team's No. 1 in the past.

In an editorial, the French sports daily L'Equipe mocked Domenech and questioned his credibility.

"This way of behaving is not worthy of someone in such a responsible position," the newspaper said.
"Galileo was more perceptive than his prosecutors" - Pope John Paul II, 1992


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