Professional athletic teams and their coaches are always looking for that little extra edge to propel them to victory. For some, that means training and discipline. For others, it can be cheating. For a few soccer (football to the rest of the world) teams in Africa, it can mean witchcraft, juju and something called muti. Does it work? A few NFL teams with aging quarterbacks looking for one last shot at the Super Bowl would like to know.
“Issues of witchcraft are not the prerogative of CAF. We have launched an investigation into the said action and if there is a breach of the regulations of the tournament, appropriate sanctions will be handed out accordingly.”
That statement by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) shows how seriously the officials are treating the possible use of witchcraft in the African Nations Championship currently hosted by Cameroon, which apparently felt that being the home team wasn’t enough of an advantage against Zimbabwe’s national team, the Warriors, and their coach, Zdravko Logarusic. Logarusic posted a picture of the bat carcass he found in the middle of the pitch before the game, along with a sign accusing Cameroon of witchcraft. If it was, it could have been a factor in the victory by Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions. The game was allowed by officials despite the possible witchcraft and Cameroon’s reputation for resorting to it – in 2002 in a tournament game against Mali, Cameroon Coach Winfried Schafer and goalkeeping coach Thomas Knono were both arrested after allegedly putting a charm on the pitch.
"That's some next-level voodoo by Cameroon there."
Fan comments tended to agree with Logarusic and support an investigation, although there’s no indication the result could be overturned due to witchcraft. Zimbabwe is now in the loser’s bracket and Logarusic says he wants his team to focus on the basics, not the bat. That may be hard to do in a sport where witchcraft and voodoo appear to be becoming a tactic. For proof, look no further than the current Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) tournament where Charles Chileshe. the goalkeeper coach of Zambia Super League side Forest Rangers, was sanctioned for acting “in a manner that is not consistent with the values and integrity of football as espoused by FIFA, CAF and FAZ” after being accused of “muti” – mysterious African rituals that include killings in order to obtain body parts for medicine used in witchcraft. Did the coach try to bump off the opposing goalkeeper?
“(Chileshe was seen) sprinkling an unknown substance in goal and urinating or simulation of urinating against one of the goalposts.”
Not murder but still a muti ritual. Not a very good one either (not that he should have resorted to murder) – Chileshe’s team lost 2-0. That may be why football administrator Ricky Mamfunda opposed the suspension.
“You can’t suspend someone without being given the right to be heard. The DC (Disciplinary Committee) should have taken the video that has gone viral and it should have formed part of their evidence against the coach.”
Yes, it’s on video. What kind of defense can he present in a country and a sport where witchcraft, muti and other rituals are becoming part of the playbooks of even the top teams – and urinating on the opponent’s goal is a known curse and caught on video?
The NFL might be wise to start using a replay camera BEFORE the game.