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Why fans cover their faces when football players take penalties – a psychologist explains

By Gillian Cook, Lecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University
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Penalty shootouts in football are one of the most unpredictable and dramatic events in sport, producing moments of utter ecstasy and deep despair in players and managers. As we saw in the recent UEFA Euro 2020 championship, fans often cover their faces when players take penalties.

Research shows us why. There are psychological reasons behind the powerful emotions that fans’ experience, and behind the nervous facial and body expressions in the image above.

Although the penalty taker may draw on feelings of competence and control to lessen their anxiety and stress, fans…


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