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A Shamans Predictions

Joe Opio/The New Vision/Twenty Ten

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

In the past, African football and superstition have proven just about as inseparable as Siamese twins. With the World Cup being hosted in Africa for the first time in history, superstitious natives continent-wide have been investing all of their energy appealing to the Gods for good fortune.

On the pitch, the players are expected to execute their assignments. But off it, certain external forces are eager to lend a helping hand. Umthakathi Inhlwathi, a South African shaman whose name translates loosely as ‘Python Wizard’, is one of many determined to help African teams achieve success at the 2010 World Cup.

Based in Sebokeng, he remains convinced that despite the wealth of talent among African teams, he and his fellow shaman need to actively influence the games in order for an African country to get their hands on the world’s most coveted silverware.

“Africa has come far but without the help of our ancestors, there’s still a long way to go,” Umthakathi insists. “In Africa, we have gods for everything, for success and even ill-luck. If we pray to these different gods to bless us with fortune and strike our opponents with ill-fortune, then the World Cup will be ours. It’s up to us, the diviners, to summon the gods and guarantee their blessings.”

Strange though it may seem to westerners, Umthakathi’s perceptions aren’t a rarity in African football. It is common for teams and individuals here to seek supernatural intervention in all fields of human endeavour. The World Cup, with all its glamour and global appeal, is no exception.

Tales of African teams consulting witchdoctors have circulated relentlessly ever since Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko dispatched a planeload of wizards to guarantee his team success at the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Despite Seko’s charges ending up on the receiving end of a 9-0 thrashing by Yugoslavia, it hasn’t discouraged African adherents from seeking supernatural intercession.

Umthakathi has an interesting explanation for Africa’s failures in past editions of the World Cup. “These past events were held overseas. African gods and the shamans are powerful. But for all that, our powers can’t work overseas. Our potency is nullified if it has to cross the high seas or the oceans. Any adherent to our powers knows that big water bodies are presided over by gods more powerful than those inland.”

No wonder Umthakathi believes that 2010 will be a year of fortune for African teams. With the soccer showcase being played on African soil for the first time, he believes that the full wrath of African gods will be let loose upon the unfortunate foreigners and their blessings enjoyed by the teams they favour.

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