Top 10 Sports Curses - Some Are Still Alive

Tags: #Benfica ,   #MickJagger ,   #WorldCup ,   #Cursed

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-09-18 08:46:01

Many athletes and fans are very superstitious, and most of the time, that looks rather silly. However, teams may suffer decades of tragic defeats, branding them cursed. Even if you don't believe in bad luck, you'll be fascinated by strings of unfortunate events. Furthermore, these coincidences impacted not only the team but often the whole city, region, or nation. Therefore we'll examine the top ten sport-related curses, with some still alive. 

10. Croatia Steps Down - Forever?

An awful move that ended Croatia's excellent team
The curse: Croatian national basketball team won't win any medal
The beginning of the curse: 1995
Has it ended? No
The rational explanation: Croatian basketball had a steep decline after the fallout of Yugoslavia
Curse info

In 1991, Croatia gained independence, and their national teams already started competing. However, the country's basketball team was especially successful. In 1992, they won the Olympic silver, losing only to the phenomenal, original Dream Team. Despite the death of Dražen Petrović, in 1993, they won the bronze at EuroBasket, and then another bronze at FIBA World Cup the following year. Finally, in 1995, they were once again third in Europe. Thus, Croatia won a medal at every event they ever entered - four medals in four years, all at highly competitive events! The future looked bright, but then they made a shameful move that changed everything.

In 1995, FR Yugoslavia was finally allowed to compete again, and their basketball team was a powerhouse. With Vlade Divac, Saša Danilović, Zoran Savić, Aleksandar Đorđević and others, they were a class above everyone else. Thus, it was no surprise that they won the gold at the European championship in Greece. Yet, during the medal ceremony, the 3rd placed Croatian team decided to walk off before the anthem of FR Yugoslavia. It was a highly emotional and political move, due to the ongoing civil war in the country. Incredibly, the nation never won any medal after the incident! Furthermore, they were rarely close, only finishing 4th in the 2013 EuroBasket. Now, Croatia is a minor team that sometimes doesn't even qualify for the top events. Most Croatian players and staff from 1995 now regret this move, which determined all that happened later.

9. Mick Jagger Curse

Mick Jagger has a special nickname in Brazil because of his bad luck
The curse: The team supported by Mick Jagger will suffer
The beginning of the curse: 2010 FIFA World Cup
Has it ended? Yes, in theory, but not really
The rational explanation: He typically supports teams that aren't that great
Curse info

Teams love when superstars cheer for them, giving them additional publicity. Plus, having such an icon as Mick Jagger on your side provides you extra credibility. However, no one is happy when the legendary rocker supports them. It all started in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when Jagger backed the USA, watching them lose against Ghana. Unfortunately, the same continued in the 2014 World Cup when he twice wished good luck to England, as they lost both times. However, his biggest achievement came in the same competition, as he came to the semifinals to support Brazil against Germany. The Germans won 7-1, as the host nation suffered the worst disaster in its history. Finally, in 2018 he was in Russia, again supporting England in the semifinals. However, the Croatians won in the end.    

Desperate to lift the curse, Jagger violated security rules to jet from France to London and watched England beat Denmark in the 2020 UEFA EURO. Still, this victory only made English fans suffer more because of the excruciating defeat in the following final. As for Mick, he's not the only superstar believed to bring bad luck. Just ask Taylor Swift, who had her banner removed from the Staples Center!

8. Derby County and the Gypsy Curse

The day that the curse was broken!
The curse: Derby County won't ever win the FA Cup
The beginning of the curse: 1889.
Has it ended? Yes, after 57 years
The rational explanation: Many teams lost three or more finals in a row
Curse info

Founded in 1884, Derby County is one of the oldest football clubs in the world. However, in 1889 they started building a stadium, forcefully removing local Gypsies. In return, they threw a curse, promising that Derby County would never win the FA Cup. Of course, no one cared about it, at least until the failures happened repeatedly.

From 1896 to 1903, Derby County reached the final four an impressive six times, including three finals. However, they indeed never won. In 1946, the team again played for the title, but not before a meeting with Gypsies, hoping they would lift the curse. And indeed, the ball burst during the match as a sign that the hex is no more. In the end, Derby won 4-1 to lift the trophy.

7. The Tragedy of European World Cup Champions

Germany is the latest world champion suffering the World Cup curse
The curse: European World Cup champion can't get out of the group stage at the next FIFA World Cup
The beginning of the curse: 1994. 
Has it ended? Yes
The rational explanation: There's incredible pressure on the FIFA World Cup winners - only Brazil managed to defend their title
Curse info

Euro nations are the most successful at FIFA World Cups but often suffer from strange sport-related curses. However, the most unlikely one started after the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Since then, every European World Cup champion has failed to qualify from the group stages in the next World Cup! So far, this affected France, Italy, Spain, and finally, Germany in 2018.

Yet, France ended that curse as they reached the finals in 2022, almost winning the trophy again. Another famous FIFA World Cup curse is related to the third-placed European teams. From 1974 until 2008, they never managed to qualify for the next edition of the European Championship.

6. Scotland's Never-Ending Agony

Scotland gave us one of the best World Cup goals ever!
The curse: Scotland men and women can't get out of the group stage in the World Cup/European Championship
The beginning of the curse: 1954.
Has it ended? No
The rational explanation: They are mostly not good enough and can't score
Curse info

To be honest, Scotland's men's national football team was never among the strongest. Nevertheless, they managed to qualify for eight FIFA World Cups and three European Championships, sometimes quite easily. While they were never title contenders, it's mind-blowing that they've never succeeded in going beyond the first round! Sometimes, they were unlucky, going home without a defeat, as in 1974.

Unfortunately, the women's team didn't fare much better. In 2015 and 2019, they qualified for the event but couldn't move to the knockout stage. It seems that very low scoring is the biggest problem for the nation, especially at the UEFA EURO. In nine games, Scotland scored only five times!

5. New York Jets Super Bowl Curse

Was it worth it selling your soul?
The curse: New York Jets won't ever win the NFL gain
The beginning of the curse: 1969.
Has it ended? No
The rational explanation: They aren't good for decades
Curse info

It's not unusual for athletes to be confident to the point of arrogance. Still, no one understood why Joe Namath was such an optimist before the 1969 Super Bowl III. His New York Jets were heavy underdogs against the Baltimore Colts, but they won the famous trophy. Since then, the team suffered something far worse than the Madden curse, as they didn't even reach the title-deciding game.

As the story goes, Joe Namath was so desperate to win in 1969 that he made a pact with the Devil, even though it meant that the Jets would never win anything again. Still, many found it strange that he stayed in New York for seven more years, knowing the team was cursed. However, maybe that was also a part of the deal with Satan?

4. Billy the Goat

The Story about the Chicago Cubs Curse
The curse: The Cubs won't ever reach the World Series
The beginning of the curse: 1945.
Has it ended? Yes
The rational explanation: Awful team management
Curse info

The 1945 season looked excellent for the Chicago Cubs as they entered the World Series. However, the problems started once William Sianis, the local Billy Goat Tavern owner, was thrown out of the stadium. The issue wasn't that he brought his pet goat to the game but that the animal didn't smell nice, to be polite. Feeling humiliated, Mr. Sianis created a curse by telling everyone that The Cubs won't ever reach another World Series.

Despite leading the series, The Cubs lost the championship, and after that, their struggles began. During the next 70 years, the team couldn't win the National League pennant, even though sometimes considered a heavy favorite. However, several strange incidents ensured that all their campaigns were failures. Finally, the curse broke in 2016 when the Cubs qualified for the World Series and won it. It should be noted that even William Sianis and his nephew tried to break the curse numerous times with others, including a Greek Orthodox priest.

3. The Funeral Curse

Paddy Prendergast believes that the curse story is only a myth
The curse: Mayo won't win a title until every member of the 1951 team dies
The beginning of the curse: 1951
Has it ended? Yes (every member of the team died), No (Mayo still hasn't won the title)
The rational explanation: Just an incredible coincidence, and the pressure to lift the curse
Curse info

In 1951, Mayo won their third Gaelic Football Championship, but the legends say they were cursed the day it happened. As they returned home, they celebrated loudly, failing to respect a funeral cortège. The story goes that a local priest cursed the team, never to win anything until the last member of it dies. In the meantime, it took Mayo 38 years to reach the final again, resulting in a defeat. The struggles continued, as the team lost eleven finals and is yet to win another title.

The last surviving member of the 1951 team, Paddy Prendergast, died shortly after Mayo lost another final in 2021. However, in the 2016 documentary, he dismissed the curse, claiming that the whole story is made up. In his defense, the curse legend started to circulate in the 1990s as the team kept losing finals. Mayo officials also called this nonsense, although it does bring attention to the team.

2. San Diego Never Wins Anything

Will it ever get better for San Diego?
The curse: San Diego won't win any major professional sports league
The beginning of the curse: 1969.
The beginning of the curse: 1969.
Has it ended? No
The rational explanation: Professional teams came pretty late to San Diego, and there aren't many
Curse info

Because of the salary caps and other rules, it seems that sooner or later, every major city will win a championship in one professional sport. Well, maybe, except for San Diego! While the team never had an NHL franchise, they did have two NBA teams (Rockets and Clippers), but they never won while in the city. The NFL's Chargers also had a 55-year tenure before they were tired of not winning and moved to Los Angeles in 2016.

Finally, the only professional team in San Diego is MLB's San Diego Padres, one of six teams never to win a World Series. The San Diego Chargers did win a championship in 1963, but this was in the AFL, years before it merged with the NFL.

1. FC Benfica European Curse

No one suffers as much as FC Benfica
The curse: Benfica won't ever win UEFA Champions League
The beginning of the curse: 1962.
Has it ended? No
The rational explanation: The curse story puts unwanted pressure on players
Curse info

In the early 1960s, Benfica was the best football club in the world. Led by manager Béla Guttmann, they won five titles in only four years. These included two European Champions trophies, with the last coming in 1962. Believing that he deserved more, Guttmann asked for a pay rise but was instead sacked. At this moment, he promised the team they won't become the best in Europe in the next 100 years!

Sixty years have passed since, and it sounds astonishing that the team lost five European Cup/Champions League finals and even three other European finals. Even their youth team lost all three deciding matches, for a total of 11 in a row. Many tried to lift the curse, including Benfica's best player ever, Eusébio. Before the 1990 European Cup Final, he visited Guttman's grave, praying for forgiveness. However, it didn't work.

While the sport-related curses bring attention to many teams, we doubt their owners are happy about it. However, as seen on our top ten list, many of these curses ended or were made up decades after they supposedly happened. Still, as one curse ends, another rises, as superstition is almost impossible to eradicate.

What are some of your favorite curses in sports? Do you believe that athletes perform better or worse when playing for some supposedly cursed teams?

Cover photo:



Add new Comment

Characters 0 of 1000

Thank you for comment

Similar Articles

Latest Articles

Top 5 Articles

Trending Articles

Sponsor Ads