Sunday, 4 June 2017

This Is What Happens When Religion and Juju Collide In Zimbabwe Football

For so long the use of juju, voodoo or witchcraft has been a common feature in Zimbabwean football to an extent that it has almost become an expected and accepted practice.

But it seems, today, the supernatural has given way to biblical spiritual power which appears to be taking sway. Juju is now facing serious challenge to its grip on the game from a new wave of faith and miracle. Today a team in the top-flight league is owned by a famous prophet.

Pouring of urine-like substances or spraying concoctions onto the pitch – most of it in the full glare of spectators – are just but one of several acts of occult football which clubs openly engage in.

It is also common to see players and officials from rival clubs resort to using undesignated entry points to the stadium or the pitch in an effort to avoid being “bewitched” by the opposition.

While local players and coaches always shy away from questions relating to the use of juju in local football, it doesn’t need rocket science to see that there is a widespread belief in the supernatural, not only in Zimbabwean football but African football as a whole.
Prophet Walter Magaya laying hands on his football players after they beat Traingle 3-0 on Thursday at Morris depot.
Picture: Shepherd Tozvireva
It thus didn’t come as a surprise when Dynamos and Zimbabwe football legend Memory Mucherahowa was subjected to threats and insults when he lifted the lid on some of the bizarre rituals, spells and charms his clubs used to engage in to enhance the team’s fortunes on the field.

Last week, Mucherahowa was forced to defended claims made in his autobiography that former club Dynamos encouraged the use of juju. “The aim of my book was to be truthful and not offend anyone,” Mucherahowa said in an interview with the BBC.

“Hopefully, people will respect the fact that I’ve been very honest. The aim of my book was to be truthful and not offend anyone.
“There are so many things happening in African football which people don’t know about so I decided to share my experiences with the fans.

“I don’t know whether it [juju] works, but when I was doing it, it was because it was part of the package of playing football.”

The DeMbare camp, just like some of the local clubs, is known for their strong beliefs in juju. While their coach Lloyd Mutasa reportedly belongs to one of the apostolic sects, he has learnt the hard way to mind his own business lest he be shown the exit door, like what happened in his first-spell at Dynamos when he was accused of tempering with the team’s traditions.

When he first took charge at DeMbare, Mutasa attempted to do away with the club’s traditional bee-line ritual in front of their goal and turn to prayer, but as soon as the results didn’t come, he was sacked.

While there is no doubt that the use of juju is still prevalent, recent events suggest that local Premiership teams now seem more inclined towards spiritual power, raising the questions on whether miracle has really toppled use of juju. For the first time, the domestic topflight league now also has a team which is owned by a church following the entry of the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries owned Yadah FC.

Yadah FC owner Walter Magaya seemed to suggest that juju was prevalent in domestic football when he blamed his team’s humiliating 7-2 defeat to Bantu Rovers last month to “spiritual issues and taxing prayers conducted before the match” in Bulawayo.

Magaya alluded that a hidden third force was behind his team’s pathetic perfomance, saying that some of his players “could barely run” or “lift their legs and they were just dragging themselves in that match and couldn’t understand what was happening.” “You won’t understand it when I say it was all spiritual and some of the players might not understand it but I do and that is why I am taking responsibility for what happened,” added the popular prophet, whose team had just suffered their second consecutive defeat, having initially gone on a five-match unbeaten run in their maiden campaign in the topflight league.

Magaya’s utterances provided another timely reminder of the beliefs in the supernatural which currently prevail not only in the domestic topflight league but in African football.
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