Superstition is a belief in a supernatural causality: that one event causes another without any physical process linking the two events. It is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific unrelated prior events.
Ninety minutes before the semifinals of the 2002 African Cup between Cameroon and host nation Mali, local policemen ran onto the field and threw Thomas Nkono on the ground, dragged him away and hit him. Nkono was Cameroon’s national goalkeeper in the eighties and represented Espanyol in in Europe. In Mali, he was Cameroon’s goalkeeper trainer.
The police in Bamako claimed they saw him throw something on the field. They concluded that it was a bewitching charm with which he tried to influence the result of the game. The Indomitable Lions won the game 3-0 and went on to lift the trophy. Oh, and the best thing about N’Kono, his nickname is the Black Spider.After the match, the Malian President Alpha Oumar Konate personally went to the Cameroonian dressing room to apologize on behalf of his police men.
The magazine African Soccer once wrote: “To go to an important tournament without a ‘juju man’ is as stupid is going to an exam without a pen.’’Muti, juju, honjon, voodoo. The belief that external forces, through sacrifices of animals, special ointments and ritual ceremonies, have impact on life is widespread in Africa and is also part of daily life in our continent.
Superstition is often used to refer to practices (Voodoo) other than the one prevailing in a given society (Christianity in western culture), although the prevailing religion may contain just as many supernatural beliefs.Albert Einstein once said;”Unless you assume a God the question of life’s existence is meaningless.
Voodoo was born in Togo. In the district Akodessewa in Lomé, there is a Marché des Feticheurs, a market where the ingredients needed for such practices can be purchased. Football is the hope of society and voodoo exists in football. No ‘African footballer’ can do without it. It’s like doping in cycling.
The first time I witnessed such acts was during my time at Kokotii United FC, a team based in Kwashieman, Accra. I played for the under 12 team for two years. In one of our league matches, one of my teammates urinated in the opposing team’s post before the game so that the goalkeeper would have a bad day. We won the game but I don’t think it was the ritual that won the game.
Kumasi Asante Kotoko legend, Rev. Osei Kofi also used juju when he was at the peak of his career.James Dlamini, the former coach of South African side AmaZulu once said he was not ashamed to admit that his club used black magic.
The subject is a taboo, but before CAN 2002 in Mali, CAF made this statement: ’’We would like to have witch doctors around the field just as cannibals in the food stalls.’’ Shocking!
You often see African players place their hands on the spot where the ball hit after a shot, with the intention of casting the spell. Others too go as far as offering animals as sacrifice.When the Ivory Coast won the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations, three juju men from Akradio claimed they were the ones responsible for the Elephants’ success. They felt they were not appreciated and honoured by the state and when the Elephants failed to go past the quarter finals three times in the next four tournaments there were rumours that the three were working ‘against’ the team. In April 2002, the then Minister of Defence Moise Lida Kouassi travelled to Akradio and gave them 1.5 million CFA and a bottle of liquor because the government had not fulfilled its promises ten years earlier .
Terry Paine, the former England international and analyst of Super Sport said that his former players prevented him from entering the dressing room. They preferred dressing up in the team bus. Paine did otherwise and the team lost 1-0 after going seventeen games unbeaten. When Bouba Diop was at Fulham, he found the net on very few occasions. He performed a voodoo ritual at Craven Cottage, using a mixture of animal blood, incense and sand. The result was that the pole would no longer stand in his way, but surprisingly he was not able to score many goals.
Ghana has won the Africa Cup of Nations on four occasions, but before the 2006 FIFA World Cup,they had never made an appearance at football’s greatest showpiece. According to a ‘so called man of God’ Joshua Nyame, Ghana was cursed. He had prepared a sunsumuade, the ritual required to be carried out. According to the man Stephen Appiah, the captain of the national team, was willing to pay for his team to deliver.Stephen Appiah denied the claims in some media circles that he paid money to a spiritualist.
He was reported in Ghanaian media circles to have paid fifteen million cedis to the pastor to exorcise a curse by the self-styled priest.Joshua Nyame claims he orchestrated -through prayers- the Black Stars title-wining feat at the 1982 Africa Nations Cup in Libya and that promises made to him by the football authorities were not fulfilled.
In our own local league, Kotoko and Hearts of Oak fans have not stopped playing the ‘juju games’. The Glo Premier League continued yesterday with the first midweek fixtures of a long season scheduled for the match-day-6 games.Accra Hearts of Oak had the opportunity to build on their lead at the top when they travelled to Cape Coast to face Ebusua Dwarfs.The Phobians lost the game after they tried playing tricks (we call it ‘ways and means’ here in Ghana)on the home side at the Robert Mensah Stadium.They began the game with nine (or ten players) according to reports.
Black magic has not helped African teams at World Cups. The answer is quite simple: Europeans and South Americans have more modern and stronger forms of magic. Most European teams and players are very superstitious and perform certain rituals.Giovanni Trapattoni sprinkled holy water on the field during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Why do many players wear the same socks or underwear during a match, they are the last to run onto the field and touch the grass with their right hand, they kiss a (covered) ring after a goal, make the sign of the cross before,during and after a game, or kick the ball into an empty net before a game? Why do players or teams go to one church or another or even the Vatican for the blessing of the priest or Pope before an important game?
Only God knows.