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African magic and football (SK)

Credit Line: Selay Kouassi /Twenty Ten
Author: Selay M. Kouassi
Source: Africa Interactive
Agency: Africa Media Online Twenty Ten
Headline: AFRICAN MAGIC AND GHANAIAN FOOTBALL
Date: 2009/09/06
Location: Accra, Ghana

Associated features: African magicians (Text feature), Gris-gris en Afrique du Sud (French text feature), Muti or Technique? (English text), Ways and Means (Photo feature) and Did Juju help? (Text feature)

Article Synopsis: The practice of juju or ‘ways and means’ in Ghanaian football and its impact on the twin Africa/World Cup qualifier, which pitted Ghana against Sudan in Accra on Sunday, September 6, 2009 fuelled many debates and raised controversial issues before and after the match.


First Paragraph: “Juju is part of our traditions and its practice is very common in both national teams and clubs. I played for a long time and our managers took us to some secret places, to perform rituals, to find ways and means to achieve success,” confesses Kofi Bruce Williams, a former goalkeeper with Accra Great Olympics. “Actually, football is supernatural, and the natural or human part in it is less,” adds Kofi Bruce, who now coaches ‘Great Horizon’, a third division club in Accra.

Keywords: African Football, Juju, Supernatural, Magic, World Cup, Ghana, supporters.
Language: English
Related Media:

Text: There is a widespread acknowledgment of juju practice in football in many West African countries and its impact on the game has gotten many football lovers talking.
“Juju is part of our traditions and its practice is very common in both national teams and clubs. I played for a long time and our managers took us to some secret places, to perform rituals, to find ways and means to achieve success,” confesses Kofi Bruce Williams, a former goalkeeper with Accra Great Olympics. “Actually, football is supernatural, and the natural or human part in it is less,” adds Kofi Bruce, who now coaches ‘Great Horizon’, a third division club in Accra.

The influence of juju on football still fuels debates and stirs strong emotions on the eve of major games, such as the twin Africa/World Cup qualifier, which pitted Ghana against Sudan in Accra on September 6, 2009. In Ghana, people call juju “ways and means” and football fans can’t stop talking about it.

The use of juju is muddled with traditional medicine and religion and blends well with football, which is by far the number one sport in Ghana. Given the popularity of both football and traditional spiritual beliefs, it is understandable that the two go hand in hand. When it comes to football matches, rituals are performed to gain the edge over opponents. Every witchdoctor has his specialty.

One of the most renowned juju men and the ex-official witchdoctor of Hearts of Oak, Boko Adjod Aghenu, told me at his shrine two days before the game that he has been supplying juju to both local and foreign clubs. According to him, the rituals depend on how important the game is. “I can take the whole team to the cemetery and ask them to sleep there or I can prepare a juju the goalkeeper has to put in his gloves. I’ve performed such rituals for many teams and players and it has worked well,” says the75-year-old juju man.

Fans are very often part of the rituals, as Samuel Agrew, also known as ‘Obouoh, one-man supporter’, one of the top Black Stars supporters asserts. “Sometimes the witchdoctor tells the supporters to take the juju to the stadium. He may give you a coin and tell you to throw it on the pitch. I’ve travelled a lot with the national team and have experienced these things until I became Christian.”

Does juju help to win matches?

Juju men and those who believe in the power of juju think that it sends spirits to play and determine the outcome of the game. Akim Adu, the self-proclaimed official juju man of Black Stars, whom I met outside the main entrance of Ohene Djan Sports Stadium at the end of the game holding two pigeons in his hands, told me: “I predicted Black Stars [of Ghana] would score three before and it happened; the referee refused the third because of an off-side. The juju already impacted the game before we came here.”

Samuel Afram, a promising young player of Great Horizon football club says: “Juju impacts the outcome of a game. I have experienced this before with Odupon Club [a third division team]. We had a match with ‘Feyenoord’ [a local team] and our manager took us to a juju man who predicted we would win three-nil; it came true. This makes me believe juju is real.”

Many disagree with the power of juju and see it as a mere trick, which plays a psychological role. Former football star Osei Kofi, whom I interviewed at Busy Internet Hall in Accra, says that hard work and training are the best magic. “I have been forced to go through many of these rituals in my career, not as an individual but as a team. But even with juju we failed many times. This reinforces my view that juju doesn’t work. It’s all in the head. It’s psychological.” Osei Kofi, who used to play for both Ghana’s biggest clubs, Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak, added, ‘Tomorrow, we will beat Sudan without any juju.” The 60-year-old predicted correctly.

It has long been commonplace for Ghanaian football clubs to turn to witchcraft, or juju, to gain a competitive edge. Ghanaians stand divided on the issue of its influence on the outcome of a game. Juju is not unique to Ghanaian football; but it is most commonly practiced in West African countries. Although its impact on the game is contested, there is no sign of it falling away from African football, especially in Ghana.

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