Witchcraft Part And Parcel of Ugandan Football

New Vision (Uganda), June 14, 2003
Joseph Batte

To the straight-thinking fans, the Rwanda-Uganda debacle at Namboole last Saturday is an embarrassing, stupid, head shaking circus straight from a comic book.

To the superstitious, the two shots that hit the woodwork, the missed chances and the ‘goal’ Hakim Magumba scored but no one saw, is down to the influence of magic charms!

That a national team would hinge it chances of qualifications for the Nations Cup to black magic, is a classic example of how witchcraft is embedded in the minds of locals that anything beyond normal understanding is attributed to witchcraft.

In Uganda, this phenomenon is traced in schools where over-zealous young students practice witchcraft on opponents by urinating in goal posts, holding testicles and piercing egg plants with needles.

Little wonder, then, that this ugly practice has now spilled over to the Cranes- thanks to former student players like Abubaker Tabula (picture right).

Most Ugandan players believe football is played with the help of juju. They don’t lend their playing kits to teammates for fear of being bewitched. Fans, desperate for victory, are the biggest culprits for stoking witchcraft fires.

Leading Ugandan clubs like Express Villa and KCC have a Jajja (witchdoctor) committee whose duty is to ensure that their team wins with the help of supernatural powers.

A case in point was in 1991 when Villa fans collected sh600, 000 and consulted a witchdoctor to help them overturn the 6-2 drubbing they had suffered at the hands of Club Africaine in Tunis in the Africa Club championship final first leg.

The witch who was invited to Nakivubo stadium promised the Tunisians would become drowsy in the first half and eventually succumb to 4-0 loss. He vanished when ten minutes into the game, the Tunisians went ahead instead in the game that ended in a draw.

Since the reign of late Chairman Patrick Kawooya, and by virtue of being the most successful Ugandan club, Villa have been lampooned by their bitter rivals for hinging their success on money and witchcraft.

This fear of juju led the two rival clubs Express and KCC to abandon Namboole stadium because ‘Villa yakyilogaloga dda’ (Villa have cast a spell over Namboole).

In 1997, an equally superstitious David Otti insisted that the team be driven twice around Queen’s Clock Tower before facing KCC in a crunch league decider at Namboole. Villa lost the match and the league.

Come the 2001 league season. The Jogoo’s campaign was again shrouded by accusations of witchcraft. During a foul tempered game at Namboole against KCC, ‘Kasasiro’ fans grabbed one of the balls the two teams were playing, cut it open and called the press to witness Villa’s ‘witchcraft. It turned to be ball filled with fresh grass!

It is now common to see teams avoiding the main entrance on their way to the pitch or scampering through windows. Often times they scour the entire length of the pitch looking for talismans that might have been planted there!

During the just-concluded CECAFA club championship, Express’ Red Army kept vigil at Nakivubo stadium ostensibly to prevent the Villa fans from planting charms on the pitch.

Before kickoff Hassan Mubiru received a Villa pendant from Captain Edgar Watson as gesture of goodwill. But the Express striker handed it back to a Villa fan Elijah Rwabwoni saying: “Mutwale eri eddogo lyamwe” (take back your witchcraft). Express went on to lose the match 2-1.

Last season, Express fans wanted to hire Paul Hasule, convinced that a mixture of his tactics and knowledge of how Villa ‘charm’ their way to victory, would break the Jogoos stronghold.

Belief in witchcraft also exists in other African countries, nowhere more so than West Africa.

When Nigeria’s Iwanyanyau faced Villa in the first leg of CAF Cup semi final at Nakivubo stadium in 1991, the entire team lined up on the Kisenyi wing goal line and urinated on the pitch. That did not stop Villa thumping them 3-2 .

Just last September, a star-studded Ghana arrived in Uganda and walked backwards from their mini-bus into their hotel. They lost 1-0 to Cranes.

So, all this begs the question: Does witchcraft work?

“We should stop this rubbish about beating opponents or losing through witchcraft. If it real works, how come no African country has ever won the World Cup?” asked a bemused fan.

“If Juju really works how come that after getting the juju from Rwanda’s goal post, we could not score a goal at all? This was just part of their psychological game plan.”

“Fans often buy sheep and chicken which they paint in their club colours to scare their rivals,” he added.

He added that they won the psychological counter-attack against Vital-O in 1993 in Cup Winners Cup. Fans went to Nakasero and collected decomposing heads of slaughtered chicken and on arrival in Bujumbura, they dumped them at the doors steps of the hotel where Vital-O stayed.

“In a nutshell, all that our game needs is organisation, hard work and cash. Players should change their minds. Otherwise lightweight teams like Rwanda will chalk up shock wins while we cry witchcraft that does not exist at all,” said one Cranes player.

Indeed, the Peles, David Beckhams and Philip Omondis of this world were made through extreme hardwork not juju. Cranes had better take note.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 26, 2003.
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