Does juju work in modern football?



Mikia Kalati

THE discovery of a traditional healer in one of the dressing rooms at Setsoto Stadium during the recent LNIG Top 8 finals has raised suspicions that the use of juju (black magic) by soccer teams to win matches may be rife in the country.

The traditional healer was discovered ahead of the final between Lioli and LCS but it was not clear which side had brought him to the dressing room and what his mission was.

The practice of juju among African national teams and club sides is probably as old as the sport on the continent.

And in one of the most publicised instances of the practice, the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) took with them a huge entourage of supposedly powerful medicine-men to the World Cup in the-then West Germany in 1974.

Needless to say, the healers failed to influence Zaire’s group matches in their favour despite mixing together all their poopy and charms.

The-then African champions suffered the ignominy of conceding a whooping 14 goals in three group matches and scoring zero on their way to a first-round exit in the competition that was won by the hosts who were powered by the exploits of stars Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller.

In one match, Zaire were even hammered 9-0 by the-then Yugoslavia.

More recently, Senegal hogged the headlines at the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Zambia in March after one of their players was caught on camera throwing an object from his socks in the direction of the opponents’ goalposts.

That did not do the Senegalese any favours as they still went on to lose the match 2-0 to the Zambians and the player earned himself a yellow card for his troubles.

It was also reported in England that a lot of African players plying their trade in the English Premier league take regular flights to West Africa to visit juju men with supposed supernatural powers to perform rituals which will reduce the risks of injuries and boost their performances.

Although there is no evidence of the efficacy of the practice, it would appear the use of juju will be around as long as football is played.

Lesotho Times Senior Sports reporter, Mikia Kalati caught up with different local coaches to learn about their experiences with this phenomenon and curiously, there were unanimous in disapproving of the practice.

Newly crowned Vodacom Premier League title-winning coach, James Madidilane, who played for different teams in South Africa, said he was once subjected to a bizarre ritual ceremony ahead of crucial match.

“I must make it clear, I have never believed in using black magic to get an edge over opponents,” Madidilane said.

“But I experienced it while on the books of Thanda Royal Zulu and we were playing in the promotion play-offs, but still lost out which proves that it does not work.

“If juju worked then teams would use it to avoid relegation and win championships.

“It just does not have a place in my world and I will never allow it in my team. A prayer does it for me and I will never encourage players to use juju because it does not work.”

LCS coach, Mpitsa Marai who played a lot of international football for club and country, said juju is a common practice in football though he believes it does not work.

“If black magic worked then there would be no need for players to train. They would instead apply juju and go on to win matches,” Marai said.

“I think one of the teams in the league owned by a traditional healer would be winning everything in the league so that shows that juju does not work in football.

Sandawana is owned by popular traditional healer Thato Nkone.

“I also think an African country would have long won the World Cup if juju worked in football because it’s more common on our continent than in Europe,” he said.

Well-travelled Kick4Life coach Leslie Notši, whose long career in coaching includes spells with the national teams, a number of the big clubs in the country as well as coaching in South Africa, said one of the clubs he coached believed in the use of juju though some of the players and management did not approve of it.

“I do not think it works. I just do not believe in it,” Notši noted.

“If it worked, then our football would be very far and competing at continental level with the best.

“I think for those that have been exposed to witchcraft practices from an early age, it is just a psychological thing,” the former Likuena coach said.

While coaching in South Africa, Notši said he was lucky to coach clubs that did not believe in the use of juju to give them advantage over their opponents.

However, Notši recalled how in 2010 ahead of a crucial match against Kenya where his under-20 side needed to win to qualify for the 2011 African Youth Championship he was reminded of how notorious African countries are with the black magic.

Desperate for the win and knowing the hostility of playing away against African opponents, a devoted member Anglican Church, Notši decided to look for his church in Nairobi, Kenya.

He said they only way they could overcome the tough task in Kenya was through the power of a prayer hence he took a decision to see a pastor.

“I think that worked very well for us because the referee was very biased as it happens in most of the games away from home,” said the veteran mentor.

“The home side were also given a controversial penalty that they missed and we went on to qualify at their expense,” he said.

And so then, the question remains, if all the coaches do not subscribe to juju, then why does it still have a place in local football?

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