The art of African witchcraft or ‘juju’ is a phenomenon that’s quite difficult to explain as it divides opinions in a manner that is hard to comprehend by any average Joe.
According to research, the practice exists in much of Sub-Saharan Africa and it has long been common for football teams to turn to witchcraft (juju), presumably to gain a competitive edge over their opponents.
In the same breath, the practice has held African football back, and until players or teams that engage in it, realized it doesn’t work, African football will struggle to catch up with the rest of the fast-moving world.
The use of juju is very much part of African game to an extent that sometimes you feel that technical expertise, discipline and tactics have been made almost secondary.
But having said that, I think we must acknowledge that juju is part of the African tradition, and we would be living in denial to say otherwise, lest we forget our tradition.
As a student of hard work and a strong believer in notion that one creates his/her own luck, I don’t think such a thing like juju works in football.
It has been proved that Africans have more witchcraft than any other people, but we’ve failed to make any impact at the FIFA World Cup, the pinnacle of international football or even at the FIFA Club World Cup.
I personally don’t believe witchcraft has a meaningful influence on the outcome of a football match and I don’t think it should have a place in the modern game.
But because of the secrecy surrounding such underhand practices to influence the outcome of matches, it’s difficult to tell how widespread the vice is among the users.
In Rwandan football, there have been claims and counter-claims of the use of witchcraft right from the top club to the one at the very bottom.
Just on Saturday (yesterday), we woke up to a video which has gone viral on social media, of Mukura and Rayon Sports players clashing over alleged use of witchcraft by the home side during the national league match between the two teams at Huye Stadium on Friday.
During the game, Mukura took an early lead but before kickoff, their goalkeeper was captured by the Azam cameras, ‘planting some stuff’ on his goal line, and while the game was going on, Rayon Sports were alerted by their bench and they went to uproot the alleged juju.
This happened twice, which meant the referee had to stop the match twice, to deal with the running battles and one or two fans were arrested by the Police.
Ironically, after the alleged juju was removed by forward Moussa Camara, the Malian went on net the equalizer on the stroke of half time. The matched ended 1-1 but whether juju had anything to do with Rayon Sports’ equalizing goal, is a matter that will be debated for some time.
In this day and age, you don’t want to see something like that happening on the field of play, and I hope and pray that the culprits will be dealt with decisively by the local football governing body, FERWAFA, in order to send out a clear message to anyone planning to do the same in future.
The incident on Friday, which will be a big talking point in the coming days by football fans, players and sports journalists, was reminiscent of the infamous clash between Uganda and Rwanda in 2003 during the 2014 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The game at Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, Kampala ended 1-0 in favour of Amavubi but not after several on-field running battles between both sets of players as the Ugandans accused their Rwandan counterparts, specifically goalkeeper Muhamoud Mosi, for allegedly using juju.
Such incidences are not new to Rwandan football, and my analysis over the last ten years of so, has led me to a conviction that probably some coaches and players put their trust much more into the use of witchcraft than the actual science (skills and hard work) that makes soccer the beautiful game.
I am not so naïve to think that criticizing that vice and the rampant use of it in African football will never take it away, not at all, but my advice to the juju users is simple and clear.
If you really believe in witchcraft and put all your energy and mind into it, it will work for you; however, believing solely in external forces while throwing training to the wind, then you’re only fooling yourself.