In 1974, Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of Congo) became the first team from sub-Saharan Africa to qualify for the World Cup. The Leopards took with them a number and sing’angas (witchdoctors) to the global showcase in Europe to help them win games through juju.
On the eve of their game against Yugoslavia, DR Congo players spent the better part of the night dancing around a fire in ‘birthday suits’ (naked) as part of the ‘prescriptions’ from their sing’anga while their officials were sound asleep in the comfort of their five-star hotel rooms.
And when they took to the pitch, they were completely worn-out and they lost the match 9-0—the highest score margin at the global showpiece. By the way, they also lost all their games.
On the local front, there have been countless tales of bizarre rituals, charms and spells aimed at enhancing fortunes on the field. I still remember two decades ago, as a fresh-faced rookie sports reporter for the Malawi News being assigned by one of my mentors, the late Mackson Kazombo, to do a story about a netball team (name withheld) that was duped by a sing’anga who slept with all the players as a requirement for them to beat the then all-conquering MBC Radiowomen, but sadly, they still lost 43-1 and, as if that was not enough, they also got a chizonono (gonorrhea) ‘assignment’. Of course, the story never saw the light of the day on ‘technical grounds’.
Of late, belief in juju by local teams has become so deep to the extent that last week during the semi-final match between Be Forward Wanderers and Moyale, a fan believed to be a Nomads’ follower, scaled the fence of Bingu National Stadium into the pitch and shamelessly took out his larger-than-life ‘tool’ and urinated on the goal post, all this in full view of security personnel, including police.
Now, isn’t it sad that 43 years after DR Congo’s juju acts failed miserably, we still believe in cold comfort that juju works and yet an African team has never won the World Cup? It’s Sad that instead of investing our energies in tactics and techniques, we are so obsessed with such trivia.Uloliwe, uloliwe wayidudula neng’esiza hah! (Oh yes, the train is pushing). Glory be to God. n