21 Jul 2019

 

Victor Lugala At Large: Football And Witchcraft

"Truth be said: since we are good at running away from civil wars and grinding poverty, why don't we specialise in athletics like Semenya or the Rotichs, eat testosterone-boosting organic foods, and go ahead to break world records!"

When we were 8, 9-year-old primary school kids, we were curious, even adventurous. After all, we were out of the clutches of our overbearing parents. We had classmates who were more advanced in general knowledge than some of us, and they could spin stories with ease.

We didn't have tv in our homes. Our fathers had transistor radios with MW, SW1 and SW2 Metre Band. They listened to "This is London" (home of BBC). (My cousin brother had a gum-chewing girlfriend who lived in Torit. Each time she sent him a love letter she could headline: Huna Torit! (This is Torit!)

So, our knowledgeable classmates knew car models like Citroen, Benz, Bedford, even when their fathers owned bicycles with carriers for transporting them to hospital.

Vietnam, Hongkong, Biafra, and Egypt sounded like neighbouring countries. We couldn't tell the difference between Cassius Clay and Mohammad Ali. We liked the word Negroes! We also liked Martin Luther. We didn't know he was dead. We indeed thought he was King or Emperor like Haile Selassie.

Football was not just football or a game of eleven players, goal, net, referee, linemen.
There were interesting stories. There was a wizard called Pele from a country which sounded like Zebra.

"Do you know why Indians and Chinese are not allowed to play football?" one of our favourite storytellers would pose the question to us, boastfully, hands in pockets.

With our hands we would urge him on. "Because of witchcraft. Witchcraft, my friends! Those guys with slit eyes are no joke. If a team plays with them and they approach the opponent's goal, the goalkeeper would see ten balls. If he tries to catch one ball, he would catch air, the real ball would tear the net."

That was our induction into the world of juju in football. At night we dreamt of footballs like bubbles enter a goal post.

Fake news aside, who hasn't heard of footballers, especially African footballers consulting sangomas? Some teams transport their samgomas with all their paraphernalia to the stadium. You see them bare-chested, faces painted, waving fly whisks, small clay pots under their arms, and dancing juju dance?

With all these dramas, plus funny haircuts, why haven't our teams not brought home the World Cup one day?

Truth be said: since we are good at running away from civil wars and grinding poverty, why don't we specialise in athletics like Semenya or the Rotichs, eat testosterone-boosting organic foods, and go ahead to break world records!

 

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