Dec 31, 2016 I MJ Banias

Rwanda Bans Witchcraft on the Soccer Pitch

Earlier this month, Moussa Camara scored a massive goal to tie up a game against Mukara in a Rwandan Premier Soccer League match. The game ended in a 1 - 1 draw, and Moussa’s team, Rayon Sports, were unsure who to thank: him, or his belief in bad juju.

Three minutes before Moussa scored that final goal, he was spotted by a journalist removing something from the opposing team’s goal post. According to The New Times, a Rwandan newspaper, columnist Hamza Nkuutu, Moussa removed an item placed there by the Mukara goalie. Its purpose was to protect the goal via a witchcraft ritual. Nkuutu wrote in a December 18th article,  

There is no place for juju in modern football.

While witchcraft and similar rituals in sports are common in many parts of Africa, and the world, Rwanda has taken steps to alleviate the issue. While hunting down soccer witches seems to be out of the question, the Rwanda Football Federation has placed steep fines on players, coaches, and leagues caught engaging in this Macbeth style shenanigans.

Players who are caught using ritual objects during matches will be fined $120 and suffer a three match ban. Coaches will face a fine of $240 and a four match ban. A first-division team found guilty of using witchcraft, they drop three points in the league’s standings and pay roughly $600 in fines, according to the New Times.

The reason, according to the Federation, is not because there is any evidence to support witchcraft having any actual effect, rather, it is to stop violence on and off the field.

In 2003, Rwanda’s national team defeated Uganda in a 1-0 game that ended with a riot. Bad juju was apparently to blame as the Ugandans were convinced the Rwandan team used witchcraft to defeat them. In his book “Sport, Culture and Society,” Professor Grant Jarvie of the University of Edinburgh wrote,

A couple of early saves by Rwanda keeper Mohammed Mossi incited the 60,000 crowd to claim that the Rwandan goalkeeper was using supernatural powers...Abubaker Tabula of Uganda started digging behind the Rwandan goal to find the offending juju — a witchcraft doll placed by the Rwandans behind their goal. Mayhem followed . . .”

It really seems to boil down to safety. That makes sense. The last thing you want is some fan getting killed in a fight because the forward carried a magic wand onto the field. If this type of crap is not allowed at Hogwarts Quidditch matches, then it certainly shouldn’t be allowed on the soccer pitch.


MJ Banias

MJ Banias is the author of “The UFO People: A Curious Culture” and curates the popular Fortean blog “Terra Obscura" and YouTube channel. He has appeared on multiple radio shows and podcasts including Coast to Coast AM, and his work has appeared in Fortean Times Magazine, FATE Magazine and in the book, “UFOs: Reframing the Debate."

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