Johannesburg - A City Press poster “How to end the PSL goal drought” plus the tweet “Our sports coverage: City Press opens the floodgates as we interrogate why PSL strikers are failing to score: Has the nyanga’s muti failed?” really set the cat among the pigeons recently.
One of our editors was inundated with calls asking about the missing “muti” element in our story.
It would seem that muti is trending these days since Teko Modise wrote about the stuff during his days at Orlando Pirates in his recently published book The Curse of Teko Modise.
There have been many varying opinions about Modise’s “revelations”.
Other parts of the world
Some staunch Buccaneers followers felt slighted by Modise writing about the “resident inyanga” and the rituals that players went through before their matches. This group feels that Modise is disclosing “family secrets”, while there are those who have dismissed Modise’s disclosure as nothing new.
They argue that it’s an open secret that South African clubs use muti.
This group says that the use of muti or voodoo, as it is called in other parts of the world, is as old as the game of football itself.
To me, this has brought to the fore the issues of religion and culture.
While the use of muti in football is ubiquitous, some regard it as a part of “our culture” that should neither be discussed nor questioned.
There is also an age-old debate about religion versus culture, particularly regarding muti.
One has heard and read several stories of players who were forced out of clubs because of their religion, be it Christianity or Islam, being opposed to some of the rituals that involve muti.
One has even heard about players who insisted on smoking ganja before games because they belonged to the Abrahamic religion of Rastafarianism.
Debates about the use of muti in sport are usually very heated, albeit private most of the time.
I do feel that there is a need to open up the debate publicly.
Whether muti works or not
I can already hear Africanists ask: Why should African culture always be open to scrutiny and questioning?
To that, I say there is a need for such an open discussion so that those who are not well informed about this can be enlightened.
If this is not done, Western influences, which say this practice belongs to the dark ages, will prevail.
And I’m afraid that, by insisting on using muti secretly, those practising such rituals will feed this school of thought.
I am not even going to venture into the debate about whether muti works or not.
Mine is not to question people’s beliefs but, as a democratic society in a democratic country, shouldn’t we practise our cultures openly?
I think it would be fascinating to watch – just as most of us are thrilled by the haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks before every match (a spectacle I must confess to never missing) – soccer players jump over a log or a burning primus stove at the centre of the field before a match.
Can you imagine how much fear it would instil in the opposition? Or would this render the mystic powers of muti redundant?
Another part that usually fascinates me when muti stories are told, is one that Modise recounts in his anecdote about the sangoma claiming that the muti did not work because one or some of the players did not do the ritual properly.
What I like about such practices – it also happens with prayer – is that there is always an excuse when they do not work or bear tangible results. What gets my goat sometimes is the public denial of the use or powers of muti even from known practitioners.
I don’t understand why people would publicly deny that they use stuff, but then privately do so. This is a double standard of the highest order.
This is one of the reasons I am advocating muti to be used openly so that we can know whether it works or not, or even who has the strongest muti.
I think those with stronger muti would do a booming business if they were known to the public rather than practising it in the deep bellies of the nocturna.
And clubs would also be able to account in their financial records instead of listing it under “special projects”.
Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku