HARARE – Folklore has it that back in the days when most black people could not read or write, an individual’s birthday was identified by a particular event that had occurred during the year of their birth.
And as a result, when the time came for the native population to be issued with identification papers by the white colonial rulers, some people would tell the authorities that they were born in the year of the locusts, others would say in the year of the quelea birds, with others saying they were born during the famine.
Based on the above examples, a child born this year would have in future become known as the one who was born in the year of the football season that was characterized by the use of juju.
While the use of juju is something that has always been part of our football, this season teams have decided to do their shenanigans in the full glare of football followers unlike in the past when this was done under the cover of darkness.
A lot of hullabaloo has been said about Premiership debutants How Mine’s over reliance on juju and recently their dressing room was forcefully opened to reveal a ‘shrine’ made up of burning candles and bottles filled with liquid matter.
While this may have come as a shock to many football followers, one veteran soccer administrator who declined to be named said this was a common practice amongst many local teams.
“The candles are lit just before kick – off and should burn for the entire 90 minutes.
“That player who usually enters the pitch after everyone else has gone in is the one who will be tasked with setting the candles alight,” said the administrator.
He added that during his tenure at one of the country’s top flight teams their opponents were tipped off by someone who advised them to delay their arrival at the stadium and they lost the match in the last 15 minutes after the candles had burned out.
“We had lit the candles just before three o’clock anticipating that the match would kick off soon after but the team we were playing only arrived just in time to avoid being walked over.
“The match kicked off late and as a result the candles burned out with some 15 minutes still left on the clock and lost the match during that period after conceding a couple of goals,” the administrator said.
The Daily News caught up with How Mine head coach Philani Beefy Ncube who rubbished the juju accusations thrown at his team.
“When you think juju will work for you use it, but I think everyone even a n’anga will talk to God first before giving out muti (herbs). So to me the strongest person is God and it’s in HIM that I believe.
“If juju really worked I don’t think we would have signed players when the season started. We would have used the players who were in the team that won promotion plus juju and win the league. But because juju doesn’t work we had to look for quality players who can compete in the PSL,” Ncube said.
The former Coach of the Year instead accused his detractors of being cry babies who when they lose complain of juju and if they win they boast of being the best.
“Teams must work hard at training and stop thinking their big names will play for them. At How Mine we believe in God and we also believe in character, hard work and determination.
“Let those who want to use juju use it, as long they don’t train, empower themselves technically and tactically and fight hard in the field of play we will always beat them. Bazahlala bekhala (they will always be cry-babies),”said Ncube.
Interestingly, the behavior exhibited by some team officials seems to point towards the use of both juju and spirituality concurrently.
For example, many top flight coaches claim to be devout Christians but their subordinates have been spotted engaging in suspicious rituals during warm-up.
In the past, people would speculate about the use of juju when teams refused to use designated entry points and gain entry into the stadium by scaling the fence.
It was also common to see a team doing their warm up outside of the pitch because they did not want to spring the trap that had been set by their opponents inside the pitch.
And stories are told about how some teams would spend late night vigils at the match venue to thwart the opposition from planting their own muti.
All these activities were shrouded in mystery as they took place away from the public eye but nowadays spells are being cast in broad daylight.
The sad thing is that this reliance on the supernatural happens at the expense of football players.
Former championship winning coach Roy Barreto fell out of favour with a local team after complaining to the media that the team was forking out a fortune to pay n’angas instead of paying players.
This scenario still prevails in the local game as a number of teams that owe players signing on fees religiously make payments to medicine men when they could easily achieve success by paying players their dues.