‘Kiricocho!’ Italy colossus Chiellini responds to claims he used CURSE to hex Saka before Euro 2020 penalty miss
Italian brick wall Giorgio Chiellini has seemingly confirmed that he attempted to use an Argentine 'curse' on England teenager Bukayo Saka ahead of his penalty miss which handed Euro 2020 honors to Italy.
Veteran Juventus defender Chiellini gave another heroic performance in the Italian side's backline on Sunday evening, with he and defensive colleague Leonardo Bonucci appearing to be immovable objects for much of the game - and stifling England's chief goalscoring threat Harry Kane along the way in what was just the second time in Kane's England career in which he didn't have one shot on goal or set up a chance for a teammate.
Defending has long been viewed as a form of art in Italian football - and if that analogy is to prove true, Chiellini's heroics throughout the tournament would hold him alongside the likes of Michelangelo or Da Vinci as masters of their craft.
But like any true artist, Chiellini's mastery exists in the middle ground between athletic ability and some of the darker arts which can often inhabit the beautiful game. And in the case of Giorgio Chiellini, that appears to extend to attempts to curse his rivals on the football pitch.
Eagle-eyed viewers may well have noticed Chiellini shout something from his position around the halfway line as Saka stepped up to take his ultimately doomed penalty, which the defender has since appeared to confirm is a decades-old football curse which originated in Argentina.
"Kiricocho", as the phrase goes, was popularized in the 1980's by Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo who noted that a fan - who went by the name Kiricocho - was frequently present on the sidelines when players of his Estudiantes team became injured in training.
Embracing his superstitious side, Bilardo sent Kiricocho to watch training sessions of most of his rivals teams - and to his surprise it worked as Estudiantes won the title, losing only to the one team to which Kiricocho was not sent to watch, Boca Juniors.
Asked whether or not he had used the curse by ESPN, the veteran broke into a smile before telling the reporter: "Ciao, Cristiano. I confirm everything to you. Kiricocho!"
It isn't clear where Chiellini found the inspiration to shout out Kiricocho's name while Saka was making his run up (Juve teammate Paulo Dybala perhaps?) but we expect that he is glad he did.
And if England fans are miffed at this other-worldly interruption in such an important penalty shootout, just remember that famed British-Israeli psychic Uri Geller claimed to have flown above Wembley in a helicopter and cursed Scotland's Gary McAllister as he prepared to take a penalty against England at Euro 96. He missed. Hey, you win some and you lose some.
Chiellini's harnessing of the dark arts may have been crucial, but according to some England fans he shouldn't have been on the pitch to do so after the veteran defender received a yellow card for a cynical shirt-grab against Saka as the Arsenal man was marauding down the right wing.
So peeved were English fans that some have set up an online petition to replay the game with a "non-biased referee", with intro citing Chiellini directly by saying he pulled back Saka "like a slave".
At the time of writing the (absolutely futile) petition has generated almost 120,000 signatures.