Malabo, Jan 30: Zambia coach Herve Renard isn't taking any chances with his clothing at this year's African Cup of Nations, and so far his trusted lucky shirt seems to be working.
Renard has sported the same white shirt for all three group matches — a 2-1 win against Senegal, a 2-2 draw with Libya and the 1-0 win against co-host Equatorial Guinea which clinched top spot in Group A on Sunday.
Renard, who is French, said the superstition dates back to his time in charge of Zambia at the 2010 African Cup when he changed his white shirt for a blue one after an opening win against Tunisia — only to lose the second game to Cameroon.
"In 2010, we played the first game against Tunisia and I was wearing a white shirt," said Renard, who wore a Zambia scarf over the lucky shirt at the post-match news conference Sunday despite the hot and humid weather. "The second game I changed because I said I can't wear all the time the same, and I put on a blue shirt and we lost against Cameroon."
Football players often have odd rituals designed to court good luck. In the 1998 World Cup, France defender Laurent Blanc kissed the top of goalkeeper Fabian Barthez' bald head before each match on the way to winning the final against Brazil.
Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, meanwhile, once missed the start of the second half of a Champions League match when playing for Arsenal because he insisted on being the last player out of the changing rooms.
Other players like to keep a certain shirt number when they change clubs, put their kit on in the same order every time or have strict pre-match routines.
Despite the sweaty climate in Equatorial Guinea, Renard said he won't be making the mistake of changing his shirt again.
"I think I won't change," he said. "But don't worry, I clean it every time after the game — it is very clean, no problem."