Azzurri defender Giorgio Chiellini used a curse during Italy’s triumphant Euro 2020 final win against England – here’s what you need to know about it
Italy were crowned Euro 2020 in dramatic fashion, victoriously winning the penalty shootout in the final against England after the game ended 1-1 after full-time.
The Azzurri won their penalties 5-3, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka ultimately missing the decisive penalties – and handing Italy the title.
After the final, Italy veteran Giorgio Chiellini admitted to ‘cursing’ Saka before his penalty miss. So what is this ‘curse’ all about? Goal takes a look.
What is the Kiricocho ‘curse’?
Legend has it that Juan Carlos ‘Kiricocho’ was a die-hard fan of Argentine side Estudiantes de la Planta during the 1980s, and would show up to watch the team train during the week.
Coach Carlos Bilardo, however, started to notice that some of his players picked up injuries whenever Kiricocho was around to watch training.
But instead of banning Kiricocho from attending Estudiantes sessions, Bilardo – who was a superstitious fellow – instructed Kiricocho to watch the training sessions of other teams, believing that the fan possessed some kind of mystical presence that could cause others to get injured.
Bilardo also encouraged Kiricocho to welcome the visiting teams to the ground, in order to wish misfortune upon them.
Following this, Estudiantes won the Argentine title in 1982, falling to just one defeat in the season. Coincidentally enough, it was the one game where Kiricocho did not attend.
The myth of Kiricocho spread quickly throughout Spanish-speaking countries, with supporters embracing the superstition and muttering Kiricocho’s name whenever they wanted to jinx an opposition player.
“Kiricocho was a kid from La Plata who was always with us, and since that year we were champions [in 1982], we adopted him as our mascot,” Bilardo had said.
“He was a good kid but then I didn’t see him again. The last time I was coaching Estudiantes [in 2003-04] I asked after him and nobody knew anything.”
Bilardo went on to manage Sevilla in the 1990s, with fans of the Spanish side then adopting the jinx for themselves, muttering ‘Kiricocho’ from the stands whenever rival players were to take a penalty.
Which footballers have used ‘Kiricocho’?
Chiellini confirmed that he himself used the Kiricoho curse against England, the Italy defender yelling “Kiricocho!” before Saka took the penalty kick.
Saka’s penalty was ultimately saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, and the rest is history.
“Hello Christian, I confirm everything! Kiricocho!” Chiellini said in a video in response to a question asked by ESPN after the game.
Erling Haaland has also used the Kiricocho curse to his own advantage, yelling the word at Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou after scoring his penalty during Dortmund’s Champions League quarter-final clash in 2021.
Haaland, however, didn’t know what the word meant at the time. The Norway forward had his penalty kick saved, but it had to be retaken after Bounou was found to have left his line too early.
Bounou apparently yelled “Kiricocho!” as Haaland stepped up to the plate, but Haaland ultimately had the last laugh. After converting the penalty on the retake, he ran at Bounou and repeated “Kiricocho!” back at him without fully understanding its meaning.
The German side won the tie 5-4 on aggregate, progressing to the next round.
When asked what Haaland had said at Bounou after the game, the striker said: “I don’t want to say. I don’t know what it means but I said what he said after I missed the first one.”
Haaland added: “Maybe it’s karma in this world.”
Are there other ‘curses’ in football?
Superstition and mysticism have always been popular in the world of sport, especially when it’s felt that ‘help from outside forces’ is needed – or when it seems that only the paranormal can account for extraordinary, unbelievable happenings.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Layvin Kurzawa, for example, was photographed with the musician right before his club succumbed to a painful 5-1 defeat by Lille.
Sergio Aguero missed a penalty in the Champions League knockout phases with Manchester City in 2019, not long after meeting with the rapper.
And Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang attended a Drake show at the O2 Arena in London and had given him a shirt – and the Gunners fell to a 1-0 loss to Everton afterwards.
England have their own penalty shootout curse. They thought they had broken it during the 2018 World Cup against Colombia, only to have it reinstated once again after they lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final in a dreaded shootout.