Dealing with alleged ‘juju’ in the Black Stars

It is said that Ghana’s senior national team, Black Stars, is increasingly becoming unappealing to players in the Diaspora, especially Europe. And, the reason has been linked to the metaphysics.

Put more succinctly, the players are allegedly scared of the use of juju (black power) in the team, fearing their careers may end up abruptly when they respond to the national call.

So, what really is juju?

According to Ibo Cbanga, a contributor to SAGE Publication’s Encyclopedia of African Religion, juju is an object that has been deliberately infused with magical power or the paranormal power itself.

He says the word juju is believed to be derived from the French joujou (play thing); though some sources claim it is from the Hausa language, meaning “fetish” or “evil spirit.”

“Amulets, charms, and mascots are all common forms of juju. Usually worn for protective purposes, those objects have been infused with a particular type of energy, and wearing them is expected to create paths and possibilities for the wearer, as well as guard them against ill fortunes and evil spirits,” he added.

If it is that simple, then there should be no cause for alarm for potential Black Stars players responding to national call. Or?

Recently, English Premier League (EPL) pair – Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu Abdul Karim and Club Brugge midfielder Kamal Sowah dragged their heels concerning their future with the Black Stars. Though they did not cite juju as a reason, allegations of use of black magic in the team may have influenced their decision.

During the Stars’ shambolic AFCON campaign in Cameroon, a couple players were said to have had their ‘Mallams’ (in Islamic West Africa, a man learned in Koranic studies) visiting their rooms a day before a match.  Loosely, a ‘mallam’ in Ghana, is someone who indulges in juju or the metaphysics.

Following such activities, some players have allegedly threatened not to honour their next Black Stars call-up.

Heartily, Hudson-Odoi and Salisu are said to be making a U-turn and are eying to don the national colours of a Ghana team that shamefully exited at the group stage, losing to Morocco and minnows Comoros and drawing with Gabon.

Over the years – as far back as the 1992 African Cup of Nations in Senegal, claims of the use of juju in the Ghana team has been rampant, causing a googol of trepidation and horror amongst the playing body. Interestingly, anytime the case came to the fore, it was downplayed by some of the leading players – and sometimes, the coach.

In September 2020, former first-choice Black Stars goalkeeper, Adam Kwarasey, in an interview with Citi Sports, claimed that he was oblivious of his colleagues employing the use of black magic, but added that “it would be an act of selfishness if the rumours were accurate.”

Many had pointed accusing fingers at surrogate goalkeeper Fatau Dauda for using juju to ‘bring down’ Kwarasey, an allegation the former debunked with all the strength bottled up in his steely body.

Former head coach of the Stars, Charles Kwabla Akonnor, has also denied claims that players of the senior national team use black magic against their teammates.

So, who at all is speaking the truth? Is it a mere allegation? Is it all cooked up to smear the Black Stars? Or, this age-long situation that seems to be brewing a pretty kettle of fish in the team has been blown out of proportion?

Nevertheless, ex-Black Stars midfielder, Derek Boateng, disclosed in an interview on Joy FM that some players used black magic during the 2013 AFCON, claiming he could not enter the rooms of some of his colleagues because of that.

 “Yes, I had teammates who used juju to play. I have seen a lot of things and they are really bad. Sometimes, you cannot even go into the rooms of some of the Black Stars players because of the kind of smell there. I believe every player has what they believe in which will help them play very well.”

Let us not pretend some of our players do not indulge in this practice. We know it is true. Fact is, it is a practice of old and over the years, we have allowed it to cut deep into our fabrics such that the players now see no indignity perpetuating the grubby act.

Years back – especially in the 1980s and 1990s, Ghanaian club officials and players alike, had no iota of shame talking about their involvement in juju. Today, too, they do – but this time around, they try kicking it a bit underground – maybe, because of the sophistication of the time.

They believe that juju has what it takes to win games; their belief more enlarged when a ‘magical’ goal zooms out of the blue – perhaps, by way of deflection or through an atrocious blunder in the area. Laughable! Not so?

Many have argued that this ‘juju stuff’ has burrowed its way profoundly into our local game and was no surprise at all to see it rear its ugly head persistently whenever the Stars camp out for tournaments.

On Wednesday February 19, 2019, something bizarre happened at the Nana Agyemang Badu Park during a premier league clash between home team Aduana Stars and Asante Kotoko.

It goes without saying that the two teams strikingly started the game with 10 men for the entire opening half, whilst their 11th players sat out at the touchline bewildered. Aduana’s Farouk Adams and Kotoko’s Martin Antwi were supposed to be the 11th players for their teams.

Of course, the two clubs did not break any of the rules of the game. Indeed, a club is permitted to start with as low as seven players. 

But it is quite uncanny and grotesque to imagine that professional clubs – for whatever reasons, will want to start a Premier League game with a man short of the normal list – when they had all their substitutes hanging out at the dungeon.

Desperate for victory, we are told the two clubs had separately consulted some oracles (juju) that had predicted victory if only they started the game with 10 men. That is Ghana football, for you!  It is shameful, primitive, and totally senseless!

True, we have got to a stage where such superstitions ought to be hurled all-too quickly out in place of professionalism.

What lessons are the two clubs imparting on their players by engaging in this metaphysical theatrics? That juju or superstition is the way to go instead of working their fingers to the bone?

King of Vodoo in neighbouring Togo, Anthony Kodjo Djifan, once told this writer that vodoo and juju share similar traits, believing juju plays football; but then it would take the effort of the team or player to put the ball into the net.

“I can confirm that teams from within Togo as well as neighbouring countries and regions come to seek help from me. However, I always advise them that hard work on the field is the adrenaline to make the juju work,” he said.

Truth is that we cannot thwart anybody from practicing their faith. However, there must be clear-cut rules and regulations in the Ghana camp as to how things should be done in order not to trigger any aftermath controversy.

Having said, that the Ghana Football Association (GFA) must ensure that no mallam or spiritualist of any faith, be allowed to visit the players in camp. It does not help them in anyway. If anything at all, it would rather create unnecessary tension as those who are not in support of it, could be kicked into all kinds of conjectures.

Whoever takes charge of the Stars after the exit of Milovan Rajevac must make the players see hard-work, discipline, loyalty, commitment, great sense of purpose, et al, as some of the indispensable ingredients that can guarantee success.

We want the situation where our players would be told that they can pluck the result by working extremely hard for it – and not idiotically banking hopes on some juju, charm or some supernatural power to do the work. It does not work like that! Hard work pays!

Of course, if juju was the panacea, why has Ghana not broken the ‘stygian silence’ of going without the AFCON trophy for four rock-solid decades? Maybe, the players who ‘coddle’ in the practice have a mystical angle to the trophy drought.

BY JOHN VIGAH

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