The stadium was packed and filled to capacity. The mood was jovial with every supporter from each side having high expectations. Nothing else would send spectators crazy than victory. It was a city derby between two rival clubs.
Before the kick off, both teams circled away from each other. One player stood in the middle and recited a prayer. Upon finishing, team mates clapped hands and scattered to their positions in readiness for the match to roll on.
But alas, at the dot of 90 minutes, one of the teams was trailing 1-4. Finally, the referee looked at his watch and blew the whistle to mark the end of the game.
Supporters whose team won went crazy. Some of them tried to invade the field to shake hands with their players. But they were disallowed by vigilant police officers who cordoned the pitch.
The winning team once again gathered in a circle and prayed.
The losing side marched off the field with dejected faces. Even from a far, one noticed some players battling with emotions to hold back tears.
Why did they lose the game? Did God not hear their prayer? If so, why?
“People should know that football is a game of physical contact and tempers. We pray to God for protection from injuries and to help us play like sportsmen.
“Tempers heat up, especially when you are losing and prayer helps bring the realisation that soccer is just a sport not war,” explained Edgar Kazonde, former Zomba Works United Football Club midfielder.
His football career hit a snug too soon from knee injury. He claims that some of his colleagues now play for the national team and big clubs such as Mighty Wanderers.
However, he admitted that some players believe in voodoo, despite offering prayers with their teammates.
Supporters too, have claimed to help their teams succeed by involving herbalists.
“Personally, I wonder why teams pray before each match for God’s intervention,” Misheck Banda of Siledi village in Mwanza said.
He gave an example of teams facing relegation, which despite prayer; end up going down.
Banda believes God exists and does wonders, but not in football or any other sport discipline because “He is a caring father of us all.”
“God cannot allow his children to suffer defeat and division because of competition.
“Teams have positions such as team managers, doctors, kit masters and goalkeeper trainers, but no religious posts,” he said.
Rebecca Mwale, a born-again Christian in Blantyre said she did not believe prayers said during football games or any sporting discipline were meaningful to God.
She said prayer is a form of communication, whereby individuals are deemed to be speaking directly to God.
However, Pastor Lackson Nangoma of Bible Faith Church said people should know that in every competition, there is only one winner.
“I see no problem at all with these prayers because God requires us to be close to him. The world belongs to Satan who is the source of bad luck and prayer is like asking for favours from God and getting closer to Him,” said Nangoma.
He quotes 2 Corinthians 3: 17, which says: “Now the Lord is the spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
He further quoted Matthew 7: 7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”