A feature from the Soccer World Cup 2010: Ghana
The use of Juju, or magic, is widely practiced in African football, to help teams gain the upper hand. But does it work?
“Juju is a part of our tradition and its practice is common in our national team and our clubs. I have played for a long time. As a player, our managers took us to some secret places, to perform rituals, to find ways and means to achieve success”, confessed Kofi Bruce Williams, the ex-goal keeper of Accra Great Olympics. I was sitting with him in his home in Accra ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifier between Ghana”s Black Stars and the Sudan. “Actually, football is supernatural. It is more supernatural than natural”, added Williams who is now coaching “Great Horizon”, a third division club in Accra.
The influence of Juju on football still fuels debate, generating much emotion on the eve of major games like the World Cup qualifier played at Ghana”s Ohere Djan stadium in Accra two days after I met Williams. The practice certainly keeps football lovers talking.
Given the popularity of both football and traditional spiritual beliefs, it is logical that the two would go hand in hand. When it comes to football matches, rituals are performed to get the edge over opponents and they differ from one witchdoctor to another.
Boko Adjod Aghenu, a renowned juju man who I met at his shrine 48 hours before the Ghana-Sudan match, says he has been supplying juju to both local and foreign clubs. The rituals depend on how important the game is. According to the importance of the game, “I can take the whole team to the cemetery and ask them to sleep there or I can prepare a juju that the goal keeper has to put in his gloves. I have done it for many teams and players and it has worked well”, said the 75-year-old Juju man, sitting before a bird-shape fetish.
Supporters 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 can give you a coin and say you should go and throw it on the pitch. I’ve travelled a lot with the National team and have experienced these things until I became Christian”.
But a question one might ask is, does juju help to win matches?
I found the question definitely generates disagreement among football fans in Ghana. Samuel Afram, an 18-year old player from the Great Horizon football club believes in the power of juju. ““Ways and means” or juju, has an impact on the outcome of the game, he said. “I experienced this before our match with Odupon Club, a third division team” he said.
Former football star Osei Kofi disagrees, however. He said hard work and training are the real magic. “Ignore the fact that I have been forced to go through many of these rituals in my career, not as an individual but as a team. Even with juju we failed many times, all this reinforces my view that juju doesn’t work. It’s all in the head. It’s psychological.” said Kofi, who in his time played for both of Ghana”s biggest clubs, Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak.
Ghanaians stand divided on the issue of juju’s influence on the outcome of the game. This does not seem to dampen the practice for many Ghanaian football clubs who turn to witchcraft, or juju, to gain a competitive edge over their opponents.
With Ghana having qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, however, the juju men from Ghana will certainly be given the opportunity to show the strength of their juju against witchdoctors from other parts of the continent – and the world.
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