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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Aug 15, 2020


Is there an end to witchcraft in football and sports in general? Can witchcraft really influence sports results? Can Football witchcraft be useful in marital issues, job interviews and other phases of life? The answer is YES, NO and MAYBE in my opinion.

In my previous life for no less than 5 years I was involved in the front line of the football administration. After very close encounters with vodoo, mganga I came to a clear conclusion as to the role of vodoo in football.

It's not that football gossip and the mystery of football never scared us as youngsters. We used to hear it repeated by adults and faithful’s that we had no choice but to believe its existence. Of course some were mere lies where a player or manager who could not deliver would use voodoo as an excuse, but coming very close to it was a journey worth retelling.

I have revisited 5 close encounters and have given my verdict in advance. What is your verdict to the question does witchcraft influence sports based on these 5 cases only or any case you know?

CASE 1: YES verdict

The first episode is an arm’s length observation of a BBC sports show in early 1990’s. The evidence was collected by BBC World service.

In a World Cup qualifier a BBC correspondent covering Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar decided to interview a nanga outside Harare just before the Zimbabwe versus Guinea World Cup qualifier.

The nanga (shona for juju man) gave a prediction of the result which was an accurate 1-0 for Zimbabwe the following week. However it is what the juju man said to accompany the results prediction that interest me. And it is what needs careful understanding

The voodoo man said, “I can see the opponent. The Guinea national team front line is very weak. They will go down to Zimbabwe by 1-0".

By then the wording of the verdict did not matter to me until after 20 years when the wording made sense.

CASE 2: NO verdict.

This case involves a great Gor Mahia football club.

Sir Alex best Man United team, with due respect to their attacking prowess, was not good enough to lace up Allan Thigo's Gor Mahia. It was raw showmanship and razzmatazz served in power and pace on and off the pitch.

There was mid-week game where the fans started protesting after the match they had won 2-0 on why they had conceded so many throw-ins (something of that sort).

Allan Thigo on hearing about the kerfuffle, got out of the showers and confronted the fans. Luo fans who dread nakedness scattered in a feets-do-your-stuff a.k.a. 'tienda-gima-acham-atuoni'. That Thigo kept on chasing them stark naked up to Burma market is an exaggeration. Once they scattered he came back completed dressing up and went home. The police men, their dogs and council staff who were also locked in managed to go home after being held hostage.

The thing is Allan Thigo was a winner all the way and lived football, ate football and slept football. He knew these sort of fans are believers of the underworld. The team has won 2-0 and are undefeated. They must just be jockeying for their personal Witchdoctor to be preferred. He took them head on in a language they best understand.

Allan Thigo gave them the only fight in the only language and faith that they can understand.

CASE 3: YES and MAYBE verdict

This episode comes from my 3rd year in football management. I was recalled to help secure a team that finished no 22 and was relegated from the top league. Somehow in a case of constitutional high-handedness, the Football governing body refused that this club cannot be relegated because in African historical club coefficient it is the 3rd highest club in Kenya! Can you believe this?

This constitutional high-handedness is only bettered by the one Prime Minister Obote used to to abolish the office of the President and make the Prime Minister (himself) the Executive president. There is nothing wrong with that except that Obote asked the Parliament to vote for the constitutional amendment in one seating without copies of the new constitution. The speaker explained that "they are minor semantic changes and they will find copies in their pigeon hole."

Kabaka was tossed and found himself living in a 3 bedroomed flat behind racist Millwall Football Club! Yes the Millwall racists whose official match day chant and  motto up to today is "Nobody likes us, and we dont care!" . In my opinion this was a nice piece of witchcraft by now President Obote and this KFF Chairman. Coincidentally this current chairman of the KFF by then was a Uganda Makerere graduate and was in Uganda when Obote bewitched Uganda. And where did say acorns fall?

Anyway to conclude the story of my team. In the seasons 4th game my team was scheduled to play against defending champion Gor Mahia. Team no 22 playing team 1. To make it worse my team even at their best had never beaten Gor Mahia in a league game for over 30years. It was impossible.

Somehow the coach invited a close friend of his to come to the training ground in the course of the week. The friend who we will call TLD came again on Saturday to prepare for the Sunday game. He constantly assisted the coach in working with the defence.

Then after the Saturday training he said something that sent chills in my spine. He said, "Sec haw vijana wana simama vibaya sana. Lazima wajue vile wana simama ndi hata ile mambo ingine inawezekana" (Secretary, these defenders have poor positioning. The must improve on positioning tomorrow then those other things can work.)

On the day of the game TLD who was a renowned underworld in football circle showed up and reviewed his prepping for the defenders. Just before we took the team bus, I was uneasy and threw in my question to the coach, "Coach, what if Gor Mahia score first, how do they play?"

Then TLD pointed at the striker and told him "go and score that first goal in the opening 10 minutes, let them answer the sec's question"

We left for City stadium to face and beat the team that even at their worst we struggled and celebrated to get a mere draw in a league match.

In fact the only other time my team beat Gor Mahia (3-2) in a 60 year history was the following year when again I had invited him to oversee team preparations. Even though he did not show up for training he assured me that he will be at the City stadium game. And he was there. I know nothing else and never asked him anything about his personal business.

CASE 4: YES verdict

I was 28 years old elected to be a secretary with players older than me. In this episode the season had not even started in my first year in football management.

A senior celebrated Gor and Luo Union defender pulled me aside and then invited me to his office. Dangerman talked to  me at great lengths about the dark things in football and told me to keep off such. They are not worth it. He told me of gory stories that at some point he would stop in mid-sentence after noticing the fear in my face.

He told me to be brave but keep of such underworld. Then he told me that some of his lot  of players who were being picked for such rituals may end up in very tragic lives because of the horror of the things they went through.

Much later I remember a story he had narrated to me of how he had an accident near Kericho. That not knowing that the exhaust pipe is a furnace, he handled it while trying to turn and upright the car. He then said "You know my palms literally melted fell on the ground and remained in Kericho. I remember covering with mounds from the nearby plantation. I did not want animals later feeding off my flesh  while I am alive. It was better to bury part of me.”

I did not ask what he was doing in Kericho or who was in that vehicle. I did not even ask why he was telling me the story in the middle of these horror stories.

As for me I am telling you this Kericho story and my clansman the Gor Mahia and Luo union defender because less than 10 years ago when coming from the burial of a club and national team mate, he died in a tragic accident at this Kericho spot some 50 years between the two accidents.

CASE 5: NO and MAYBE verdict

The first time I came into football management I was really innocent. The senior most player was a celebrated international star who had achieved everything you want in East and Central. He was at least 6 years older than me.

A bubbly charismatic figure he took to protecting me against lies. That season we had awful fixtures to start with. We had runners-up, Champions, regional champions and two hostile away fixtures in in the first 5 games. At the end of it we had only 1 win against a western Kenya lucky ground or as they call it in TZ shamba la bibi (grandmothers’ farm where you are spoilt with whatever you want).

The fans were livid. So I turned to this senior player to sample some of those coastal underworld things.

The senior player told me that such things are there. He said that even their holy Koran acknowledges them but advises us against it. He told to keep away from such things.

Then he introduced a strange subject and I am not sure  why because those days I was pretty straight laced. He told me, "Lakini mambo ya vilabu na nyumba za haramu kama umalaya ndie upunguze siku ya game" (Stay clear of leisure places the day before the game).

He then went on to explain that any sport is a game of luck. That it is important i leave home for the game with my wife smiling. If I leave home with my wife in tears it's difficult to win.

Also these houses of pleasure have so many grieving people. If I hang around them before a game then I should not seek good tidings from God.  He who goes for justice must go with clean hands. And he explained that most players who concede own goals or make game decisive blunders have such bad spirits from wherever they are emanating. "Keep your wife and family happy and you will be very difficult to beat"

I asked him how a woman's tears who is not playing decide for 22 players. He told me, "There are things in sports and life that human beings cannot explain. My mother always wanted me to play for this football club. I have won almost everything elsewhere but have nothing to show for it. In this club there is not as much money or trophy but in 2 years I am now married with a family, bought a house and have International businesses. How do you explain that and why my late mother wanted me to play here?"


[NOTHING TO DO WITH WITCHCRAFT: this is non other than Serge Ibaka, the Congo Brazzavile player who was born months after his Zairean mom had played in the basketball finals at Kasarani, Nairobi. I feel an attachment to him so I keep on using his portraits]


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