The power of Kiricocho
Argentine penalty tradition making waves in empty stadia
Erling Haaland steps up to take a penalty in a crucial Champions League tie for Borussia Dortmund. His opponent, Sevilla goalkeeper Bono, exclaims just before Haaland strikes; he dives to his left and makes the save. Before he has time to celebrate, VAR spots an encroachment and the penalty is retaken. This time, Haaland scores.
After scoring, Haaland runs up to Bono and shouts in his face. What does he shout? “I don’t know what it means but I said what he said after I missed the first one,” Haaland explains.
Thanks to video footage, and this thread by Spanish reporter Juan Sebastian Perez, we have the whole story. As Haaland takes the first kick, Bono (who scored this superb last-minute equaliser for Sevilla this weekend) shouts ‘Kiricocho!’ just as he dives to save it. See here:
What’s going on here? It turns out that Kiricocho was a super-fan of Argentine first division club Estudiantes in the 1970s. Whenever he came to watch training sessions, an Estudiantes player seemed to get injured. Estudiantes’s ultra-superstitious coach Carlos Bilardo turned it to his advantage: he hired Kiricocho - that is his nickname, no-one knows his real name - to welcome opposition players to the Estudiantes stadium on match-day with a pat on the back. Estudiantes went on a great run of form that culminated in winning the 1982 Argentine title. The only match they lost, against Boca Juniors, was one in which Kiricocho was absent. Bilardo confirmed:
“Kiricocho was a poor boy from La Plata who was always with us and since that year we were champions, we adopted him as a good luck charm.”
By the time Bilardo was coaching Sevilla in 1992, Spanish football was aware of the Kiricocho legend. Diego Simeone played for Sevilla that year, and had kept the superstition going, according to his former player Filipe Luis.
Players and fans would shout, ‘Kiricocho!’ before an opposition scoring chance to wish misfortune on the kicker. Spain defender Joan Capdevila even shouted ‘Kiricocho!’ at Arjen Robben as he bore down on Iker Casillas in the 2010 World Cup final. Casillas saved. “I only used it once in my career, I was desperate and it was the first thing that came into my head,” Capdevila said.
River Plate striker Leo Pisculichi said he shouted ‘Kiricocho!’ one thousand times before Boca Juniors striker Emmanuel Gigliotti had his penalty saved in a dramatic 2014 Copa Sudamericana semi-final tie. There is footage of French players shouting ‘Kiricocho!’ at Antoine Griezmann during training practice.
I’m sure there are plenty of examples of ‘Kiricocho!’ shouts before scored penalties. I particularly enjoyed this one which failed to work on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from a Mexican commentator, while Paolo Dybala had a go, shouting ‘Kiricocho!’ at Arturo Vidal before he scored a penalty for Chile in July 2019.
Last October, Boca Juniors won a penalty shoot-out after Inter de Porto Alegre player Rodrigo Lindoso had his penalty saved. A clear shout of ‘Kirichoro!’ is audible before he hits the ball:
The video below, produced by CONMEBOL to promote the Copa Libertadores, shows just how many penalties in South America have been saved recently after a ‘Kiricocho!’ shout:
The myth of Kirococho has extended into a fashion brand, set up by professional players for fans who want to ‘express their knowledge and fanaticism for football’.
We mourn the loss of fans at matches; but it’s only their absence that has allowed us to see (and hear) the presence of Kirococho at these games. His myth lives on.
Not sure if there was a ‘Kiricocho!’ shout before Joselu’s late penalty for Alaves against Atletico Madrid last night. Atleti GK Jan Oblak dived the right way and kept out the GK-Independent penalty, ensuring a 1-0 win to maintain a four-point lead at the top of La Liga. Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan called it ‘a La Liga-winning moment’. After the match, Oblak said: “Nobody understands penalties - I remember a few years ago I saved four of six, lately I’d not saved any [he’d conceded his last six penalties - including one from Joselu last June]. Today luckily I saved it and we won the game."
Great piece of analysis from the team at smarterscout, who examined fouls won and conceded by every Premier League team both in and around the area. They were looking for a linear relationship between the ‘in’ and the ‘around’. It turns out Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester and Crystal Palace win more fouls in the area than expected, while Burnley and Newcastle win fewer. The full thread is here.
Sergio Ramos makes it 2-0 from the penalty spot for Real Madrid and they're surely out of sight now! ⚽ Their talismanic captain always turns up on the big nights 💥
Check out this reaction from a goalkeeper in the Vietnam league to saving a disputed penalty. Love to see it!
Super Sergio! Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos is on quite a run of penalty form at the moment. Last week’s Champions League penalty against Atalanta was successful penalty number 19 in a row for his club side, a run going back to May 2018 (his last miss was against Sevilla GK David Soria). He did miss two in the same match for Spain last November, in the 1-1 draw against Switzerland. Thanks to the marvellous MisterChip for the numbers.
Thank you for your passionate response to last week’s piece exploring Lionel Messi’s penalty issues. Some people thought his record wasn’t that bad (I never said it was bad, only average) others that penalties bring out the human side in him. I liked the comparisons between Messi and LeBron James at free throws, Ryan’s comment that having time to think about an action goes against his instinctive nature and Dan’s thought that goalkeepers try harder against Messi. Thanks also to Amran who shared this El Mundo Deportivo cartoon from 2015 after Messi’s penalty miss at Manchester City. The caption translates as: “Some people need to score penalties to feel like gods. ‘D10S’ has to miss penalties to feel human.”
Please share any penalty thoughts or further questions to me either by commenting below or at @benlyt.
If you enjoyed this post, please spread the word about Twelve Yards and share this with your network. If you’re new, you can see recent pieces including: why Lionel Messi is average at penalties, how Robert Lewandowski became a penalty killer, who really invented the two-touch penalty (and Robert Pires relives his trauma), why it’s better to aim high than low, the great Ederson penalty debate, an interview with Antonin Panenka, how to define a true Panenka, how to end Antoine Griezmann’s run of five missed penalties in a row, penalty records in empty stadia, and Barcelona’s first shoot-out win in 23 years. Thank you!
Ben Lyttleton is the author of Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty