Monday, 21 January 2008

Witchcraft and the African Cup of Nations

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Africa's flagship football tournament opened in Ghana last night, and we were interested to read how the Cup of Nations has often been blighted by accusations of witchcraft, or juju.

Apparently the continent's football confederation has worked hard to eliminate witchcraft from the tournament but, as this year's competition kicks off, it is still considered a potential problem.

One Algerian news site, in an article entitled "What you need to know to watch the African football Cup of Nations" describes two past incidents when accusations of black magic caused controversy during matches:

"A brawl was sparked before kick-off in a 2003 qualifier between Uganda and Rwanda as Ugandan players tried to prevent the Rwandan goalkeeper Muhamud Mossi lighting a 'mysterious substance' in his goalmouth. The offending item was removed at half-time by the Ethiopian linesman Lema Mesfin, who ostentatiously crossed himself before picking it up.

"Benin 's involvement in the finals for only the second time means juju could become a significant issue after various Togolese officials and fans blamed witchcraft for their surprise 4-1 defeat to Benin, a setback that cost them their place in this year's finals."

And it seems witchcraft has already been employed at this year's tournament. A group of Ghana fans attending last night's opener against Guniea carried a "juju pot" containing a mixture of leaves and liquid, explaining that "its presence at the stadium will scare away all devils". One of the group, Kojo Saaka, denied any evil intentions, telling reporters that the pot "rather brings luck and peace".

Ghana won 2-1, so the pot certainly didn't do any harm. Perhaps England fans ought to be taking notes.

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