Playing Dirty: Mind Games in Football
Imagine yourself making a cup of tea in front of a 40,000 strong crowd scrutinizing your every move. Professional footballers ply their trade under such conditions every day. That is where the home advantage comes in. Today we look at some bizarre tactics used by home teams to rattle their opponents off the field.
While stories of over-heated dressing rooms and faulty plumbing are well-known, in one of the more bizarre 'ploys' to disarm an opponent, Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala made a curious furniture change to the away dressing room in anticipation of Tottenham's visit. In order to instil lethargy in the visiting side, staple benches were replaced with plush leather armchairs. The well rested visitors won 2-0.
Imagine sitting in a dressing room plastered with floor to ceiling posters of irate home supporters or the room painted with a sickening blue and yellow tinge, before going out to face the crowd. Not your cup of tea? Then make sure you don't end up on a team visiting Sunderland F.C. or Benfica.
Half-time talk is one of the most important time-outs in football where strategy is discussed and the game is analyzed by the manager. But you can't do that with a huge table in the middle of the room, can you? Welcome to Arsenal. At Liverpool's Anfield, the floor is so wet, you can barely stand without 'kissing the floor'.
Other than a smaller dressing room, away teams at Chelsea can expect wall to wall hindrances, high-up coat hangers and a host of other contrivances made to unnerve them. But the most innovative of them has to be the mirrors which literally make you look smaller before a big game. If not all this, you also have their lofty stature to blow you out.
'Can Messi do it at a wet, windy Tuesday night in Stoke City?'- one of the most enduring debates in football. Weather and altitude play two of the most important factors in any game, and the home team is already at an advantage if conditions are adverse. Take for another example, the La Paz stadium of Bolivia at an altitude of 11,932 feet.
We save the best for last. Intimidating crown presence has a huge influence on any game and has been even proven to affect referee decisions. There is little that even God can do if you happen to be playing away at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion or San Siro. For want of more, the reader is welcome to attend the derbies of any South American or Asian country.