Does Juju exist at all? Does it work? Does it exist in Sport?. I do not have any of the answers to the three questions, but I have experiences that span almost 50 years since I played my first serious football competition as a teenager in my first year in Ibadan after leaving Jos at 18.
These past two days, foremost African Cinematographer, Tunde Kelani, have been discussing those experiences and he can’t hold back his fascination and the possibility of a movie coming out of it!
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To start with, the use of the word Juju almost always connotes a local practice, an uncivilized trip into fetishism, or voodoo, or magic, or crude cultural practices. But look at it a little differently, as what people do physically in a quest to seek spiritual interventions in their affairs – fasting, sacrifices, incantations, routine rituals and so on, and the word takes on a new and more acceptable meaning. But Juju is Juju. It is the seeking of the favourable ‘face’ of metaphysical aid to achieve results that are often selfish and unmerited.
Sport is powerful. Aside from winning games and enjoying the temporary orgasm of victory, and taking home medals and trophies, there is the power and ecstasy of fame and fortune to contend with. I do not think there is a bigger field in human affairs than in sports (with political power, a close second) where ‘Juju’ is being more practiced all over the world than in sport!
Juju, by the bigger definition, is everywhere, and in every sport, in different forms, subtle and loud!. Juju sport.
Watch Messi when he scores a goal. He looks up into the sky two fingers raised and whispers something. Watch Nadal when he goes through his spiritual rituals before and during his matches. Watch Zamalek or Al Ahly Football Clubs of Egypt before they file out for their matches, what they and their supporters do – their faces turned towards Mecca in special supplication. Go to the beaches of Copa Cabana in Rio De Janeiro, early in the mornings of any day, and see how the most Catholic of people (and players) worship and litter the beachside with idols in search of divine interventions and favours.
I was curious and moved closer. The man burning some incense and throwing some pieces of paper in a small basket by his side. He was picking out those pieces of paper, incanting something and throwing the pieces of paper in the blazing fire. Initially, I could not make out what he was saying. I was curious and moved even closer. His eyes were in a daze, totally oblivious of the few persons around him.
Then I heard a few of what he was muttering in a chant. They were names. Every time he looked at the paper, he would call out a name, throw the pare into the fire and it would go up in ablaze. It was when I heard my name pronounced that I realized what was going on. It was the names of NTC players. I stared in shocked and mortal fear, rooted to the ground. This was Juju at work. My first encounter, live and direct! And people were just walking around normally! I checked myself. I was alive. Nothing was happening to me.