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World Cup: Witchcraft And Mysticism In Global Football

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As the world cup tournament kicks off in Brazil in a couple of days, many people are curious to know the role witchcraft would play in the matches to be played by African teams. This curiosity has been intensified by the recent pronouncement by a local spiritualist in Ghana, Kwaku Bonsam. Bonsam claimed that he was responsible for Cristiano Ronaldo's injury and would use his magical powers to ensure that Ronaldo missed the World Cup.

While that absurd claim deserves all the hype and critique it is getting in the international media. I think similar attention is hardly paid to forms of 'juju' or 'witchcraft' that are practiced by non African teams and players. Why?

Juju is part of the magical belief of Africans. It is a practice identified with the traditional religion but has been appropriated by some contemporary African christians and muslims who find it 'relevant' and 'useful'.

Football is just one of those areas where many Africans find juju useful. Charm give players some spiritual or better psychological assurance of winning the match. Even though at the end of the day they lose as is often the case. Competitions like football matches go with a lot of tension, uncertainties and elements of luck. Many African players believe-or have been brought up to believe- that physical training is not enough. That they need some spiritual facility to complement their training, talent and performance. This is the belief behind the use of juju in football matches. But this belief and practice is not peculiar to Africans. There are other forms of juju and witchcraft that feature in world cup and international matches which the media, for some reasons, ignore. And there is need to situate African 'witchcraft' in a context of a global football is still enchanted.

Religious and mystical practices are so visible during international matches.

Some non African teams pray shortly before starting a match. Is that not a form of witchcraft? Whom do they pray to and for what? They pray to God or Allah to help them win, and of course to make their opponent lose. Is that not an occultic scheme? How is that different from the magical undertakings of Kwaku Bonsam? Many non African players murmur some prayers before entering the field to play. They make the sign of the cross before taking a penalty. Some players wear and display crosses on the pitch. Is that not a form of christian charm, a kind of christian 'witchcraft'?

Many muslim players kneel and hit their foreheads on the ground after scoring a goal. Some literally turn the pitch into a praying ground during penalty shootouts. They remain in a praying position stretching their hands towards the sky. While watching them on television, one can perceive some players from muslim countries saying 'Allah Akbar' after a team mate has scored a goal.

I ask, is that not some form of muslim juju practice? Is that not some sort of islamic witchcraft?

The Brazilian player, Kaka, once displayed an inner wear with the inscription ' I belong to Jesus' after scoring a goal during an international match. Is that not a form of christian 'witchcraft' practice? Incidentally, people do not pay as much attention to these 'witchcraft rituals' as they do to African forms of occult and mysticism.

Many do not feel as 'fascinated' with christian or islamic juju as they do with African. This is probably due to this mistaken notion that christian or islamic witchcrafts are more 'civilized' and 'modern'. Really?

Some people say that the display of juju by Africans during matches make them look superstitious and foolish before the eyes of the world. Indeed it does. The claim that one can influence the outcome of matches through witchcraft, magic or prayers is ridiculous.

At the same time I think that whatever makes 'I belong to Juju' superstitious and foolish makes 'I belong to Jesus' or chanting 'Allah Akbar' after scoring a goal superstitious and foolish too. They all point to the salient presence and manifestation of magic and mysticism in contemporary football that is not going away too soon.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Leo Igwe and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Leo Igwe