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It has been a difficult few months for England Manager Fabio Capello.

Aside from England’s dreadful performance and subsequent early exit from the World Cup, the Italian was also left with egg on his face when his involvement with the controversial Capello Index was exposed. Both events prompted a fierce media backlash, with the press openly questioning his selection policy, tactics and more crucially, his integrity. After such a promising start, the cracks have started to appear.

Add to this the number of off-field issues he has been forced to address with his philandering players and he could be forgiven for simply giving up. John Terry’s unwillingness to keep “Terry Jnr” in his trousers, Ashley Cole’s abject refusal to honour his wedding vows (culminating in a very public divorce) and most recently Wayne Rooney’s penchant for visiting prostitutes must have tested Capello’s resolve to breaking point. Who was he coaching here, the England football team or the cast of Fatal Attraction? Things couldn’t get much worse for the under-pressure manager.

And then someone releases a story that you believe in ghosts. Great.

Yes, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has claimed in his autobiography that compatriot Capello used to be spooked by a presence in the coach’s room at Milanello, AC Milan’s training complex, during his time with the Italian club.

Ancelotti revealed: “The first time I walked into that room, I had a distinct impression. I could see an array of presences. I was sleeping in the bed that had belonged to Nereo Rocco, Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello.

“In the old days, Capello – under the influence, I believe, of the director of the sports centre, Antore Peloso – used to claim that there was a ghost, wandering freely down the hallway, especially after sunset.”

Wow. Fabio is undoubtedly delighted that this story has surfaced. It’s probably just what he needs; an already-critical nation questioning his mental health.  But Ancelotti isn’t done yet:

“I never understood which was crazier, Don Fabio or that ghost, who had decided to pick on him of all people. It really got to be a problem.”

Quite a problem indeed; an improbable presence occasionally wafting up a corridor at night. Sounds inconvenient to say the least. However did they cope? Carlo tells us:

“I can still see Capello, shoulders thrown back, chest swelling with righteous indignation: ‘Be gone, go **** yourself, evil spirit. This is not a team of dead men’.”

Fabio Capello, seen here talking to a ghost

So say what you will about Capello’s ability to manage a football team, but may his powers of exorcism never be called into question.

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Inspired by the current football World Cup, Looking For Ghosts has been researching paranormal occurences in the world’s favourite sport.  

The first story that we came across is that of the Ivory Coast, who are currently competing in the World Cup. When the team won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992 after a marathon penalty shoot-out against Ghana, the supporters credited the victory to the witch doctors who had been employed by the country’s Ministry of Sport to aid the team. However, these witch doctors said that their services had never been paid for, thus cursing the Ivory Coast team. Error.  

Didier Drogba levitating

From then on the Ivory Coast won jot all. A decade later, the country’s defense minister apologised to the witch doctors and offered them $2,000 and asked them to work for the team again. Since then, obviously, the Ivory Coast have won… nothing. If anything, their luck has got worse; they lost the final of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations to Egypt on penalties. 

However, most of the cases of ghosts linked to the sport come from England, where it has been played for hundreds of years. For instance, the main stand at Crystal Palace’s ground Selhurst Park is reportedly haunted by Billy Callender, a popular goalkeeper for the London club. Callender was deeply affected by the death of his wife from polio and he supposedly hung himself from a crossbar in 1932. His ghost has been seen in the stands and his presence felt in the staff room. 

Selhurst Park itself is supposedly built on an orchard cursed by gypsies. In 1977, then manager and fedora fan Malcolm Allison employed celebrity psychic Romark to lift the curse and subsequently the club’s luck. However, an argument about money ensued and Romark put another curse on Palace. The curse may, or may not, exist to this day. Any excuse for their crap form last season… 

Big Mal

Curses are also rumoured to have hindered performances at Preston North End, Leeds United and Turkish team Fenerbache.  

A boggart is supposed to be a malevolent fairy that follows a family and causes things to disappear, milk to sour, and dogs to go lame etc. Boggarts a quite common in folklore in the North of England and, legend has it, that before Burnley’s Turf Moor ground was built, the Bee Hole Boggart kidnapped and murdered people. The skin of one victim – an old woman – was found in a rose bush. Maybe he was the world’s first football hooligan.  

You may well ask which team Looking For Ghosts support. Well, isn’t it obvious? The Ghosts of course! Formed in 1884, Fakenham Town play in the Eastern Counties League and are nicknamed The Ghosts. However, we’re unsure of why they have gained this moniker. Anyone out there that can shed some light on the subject, please let us know.

Looking For Ghosts

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