The South African national soccer team’s nickname “Bafana Bafana” is sometimes pejoratively renamed “Banana Banana” in SA, due to their underwhelming performances, so if they can use some good old black magic to assist them in the World Cup, it will be much needed! Report by Nicolas Brulliard for the Wall Street Journal:
JOHANNESBURG—As the second-lowest ranked team in the World Cup competition, South Africa is expected to lose its opening match Friday against Mexico. But to ensure victory, Michael Mvakali recommends a simple fix: a concoction of plants and animal limbs.
“You use the horse’s foot and the ostrich leg, you mix it with some herbs and you put it on the players, on their knees and their legs, and when they kick, even the goalkeeper can’t get hold of that ball,” said Mr. Mvakali, a practitioner of traditional magic. While he hasn’t provided services to the national team, he says he has devised potions that helped other soccer players.
Many here think the South African team, nicknamed Bafana Bafana, or “The Boys,” can win—and not only because it enjoys home-field advantage in the first World Cup held in Africa. Some believe the team may also benefit from a little muti—a Zulu word that refers to witchcraft and traditional medicine, as well as the powders and potions used in the practices.
The team insists that it engages in no muti. But that denial isn’t very convincing to many fans, because conventional wisdom has it that publicly acknowledging the use of magic robs it of its power.
Muti is present in many aspects of South African life, used to solve infertility problems, get a spouse back or find work. In a nation that reveres soccer, home teams and opponents are popular recipients of blessings and curses. Many teams employ their own sangoma—a traditional healer with powers of divination. In attempts to influence games, sangomas may smear muti on the walls of dressing rooms, have players urinate on bags of dirt brought from their home field to away games, or bury animal parts in the soccer field.
Witchcraft isn’t exclusive to South African soccer. In 2002, Cameroon’s assistant coach was arrested after police accused him of dropping black magic on the field ahead of an important game against Mali (Cameroon won 3-0.) In neighboring Swaziland last year, a new artificial turf field was damaged when chicken feathers were buried in the center of it before a league match.
In South Africa, muti is used at all levels of the game, from players kicking the ball socially on weekends to managers of top-flight clubs…