Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini has claimed that he put the ‘Kiricocho’ curse on England’s Bukayo Saka, who missed the last penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Saka’s spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, handing Italy the Euro 2020 title 3-2 on penalties after the two teams were level on 1-1 in 120 minutes.
Just before Saka took the kick, Chiellini screamed “Kiricocho” — a word that has been used by footballers for decades to inflict bad luck on the opposition.
Responding to a question from ESPN Argentina, Chiellini responded in Italian: “Hello Christian, I confirm everything! Kiricocho!”.
There was a video uploaded by UEFA on its Twitter handle where Chiellini was spotted mouthing something as Saka began his run-up. The words have now been identified as ‘Kiricocho’.
The origins of the curse are very interesting. Juan Carlos ‘Kiricocho’, or Quiricocho, according to some versions of the tale, was a die-hard supporter of Argentinian club Estudiantes de la Plata in the 1980s.
The fan used to attend some of the club’s training sessions. One fine day, Estudiantes head coach Carlos Bilardo began to notice that his players bizarrely got injured whenever Kiricocho was present.
Bilardo, as the narrative goes, told Kiricocho to attend training sessions of the opponents of the Estudiantes, hoping to utilise his jinxing powers to hurt the opposition.
“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 once said.
The legend of Kiricocho has since expanded, especially in the Spanish-speaking world. The players now utter the word whenever they wish to put a curse on an opposition player.