Is juju use effective in sports?

The Fédération international de football association (FIFA) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have never sanctioned or clamped down on it.

However the use of juju is a recurring phenomenon in African sports so much that it begs for unceasing discourse.

Many examples abound of using juju or muti to defeat opponents, complement a team’s efforts and change the course of outcomes in its favour.

Amazingly, tales have been told of an entire team’s involvement in juju and even the astounding fact of having medicine men on a team’s payroll.

Zimbabwe is no exception.

Clubs and supporters alike have been known to go to greater lengths to avoid the great powers of juju in changing match outcomes.

Teams thus resort to using undesignated entry points to the stadium, fans sprinkle salts at opponents’ goal posts and even burn white towels and other paraphernalia to avoid being bewitched.

Instances of juju in Zimbabwe

Recent events happened in Zimbabwean football that aroused sentiments in the use of juju in football.

A match pitying Dynamos and Hwange at Babourfields Stadium was marred by controversy following accusations of the use of juju by Hwange.

This led to the Harare giants’ team manager Richard Chihoro sprinkling some liquid to ‘unlock’ the nets, perceived to have been ‘locked’ using ‘juju’.

Later Dynamos fans burnt a towel belonging to the Chipangano goalie believing there was some black magic on it.

Chihoro was subsequently suspended by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) before found guilty and fined for misconduct, following his ‘anti-juju ritual’ over Hwange.

Perhaps more revealing is the all telling autobiography by former Dynamos captain Memory Mucherahowa, Soul of Seven Million Dreams.

The autobiography sheds more light on the use of juju by the club to enhance their performance on the pitch was although he alludes to its negativity as it undermined technical strategy and affected performances.

Memory Mucherahowa, who led Dynamos to the 1998 African Champions League final.

“Every week before a game the team would consult a traditional healer. I, as the team captain, would be the one to execute whatever the sangoma (juju-man) had said. Whether it actually aided us, I do not know,” Mucherahowa writes.

“The team believed more in juju than players’ ability. We believed in collective use of the juju and consulted one traditional healer as a team.

“In most cases we had the team’s traditional healers who were on the team’s payroll.

“The belief was so high at the club that coach [Peter] Nyama lost his job in 1990 after being fingered by a traditional healer as being guilty of jinxing the team.”

Last year, former netball champions, Correctional Queens reportedly suspended two members over an alleged juju incident that had happened during a league match with Glow the previous year.

How effective is juju

However the question that begs an answer is whether juju is really effective as it has been hyped in African sports.

Or is it merely a misdirected notion that usually has disastrous consequences on a team’s ability to excel as Mucherahowa’s autobiography points out.

Ironically the use of juju is widely documented in ball games more than any sport.

Aloise Bunjira, a seasoned footballer once attested to juju’s ineffectiveness when he wrote

“My personal view is that juju does not work, 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.”

Malawi-based renowned local herbalist, Dr Moffat Moyo, disclosed that he has been supplying juju to both local and foreign clubs but quickly points out that hard work and training are the best medicine.

“I can confirm those teams from within and neighbouring countries and regions come to seek help, but I cannot give their details.

“However, what I can advise is that hard work is the best medicine.

Former Ghana coach, Burkhard Ziese once remarked

“Club officials in Ghana draw a lot of money from teams under the pretext of paying a juju man, but end up pocketing it.”

From the above one can conclude that juju use is widely rife although it seems to deliver negative results.

This points to a psychological phenomenon where its power exists in the mind working either inspire or dishearten the user.

It also points to a lack of structured sports science in the African context as its use seems to be inculcated from grassroots to senior levels.

The onus thus remains to actively instil a positive mind-set in the young ones that insists on hard work, training and a positive mind-set needed to achieve results.

The absence of juju in other sporting disciplines should be a red flag that deters users.

After all, if it does work, “why haven’t an African team won the world cup,” according to former Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele.

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