OPINION: It is time for Africa to forget about muti mumbo jumbo
Soccer World Cup 2018 in Russia (File)
Johannesburg - I hope that the fact that Africa’s five teams were knocked out in the first round of the World Cup in Russia finally proves that muti and voodoo mumbo jumbo just don’t work.
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Instead of causing confusion and bewilderment to the opponents, the mumbo jumbo seems to be working the other way around, if it works at all.
It is only normal to conclude that, if muti or voodoo were as powerful as believers and practitioners think, an African country or one of the islands, such as Haiti, where such practices are common, would have won the World Cup a long time ago.
With the potency such stuff is claimed to possess to grow the size of some organs, bring back lost lovers, make one lucky and confuse one’s enemies, a country from the motherland should long ago have bamboozled their opponents into such bewilderment that earning a victory would have been as easy as grabbing candy from a child.
Instead of preoccupying themselves with mundane issues, such as getting the best muti man in the land, African football authorities should focus their energy elsewhere.
It is high time African football took the giant leap to modern times.
The game has evolved so rapidly that the World Cup proved once more that Africa as a continent (thanks to my boss, who likes to remind us at every turn that “Africa is not a country”), is lagging far behind the other continents in the scientific aspect of the game of the pigskin.
The better part of the world has moved to a level where, as one European trainer observed, the footballer is a dying species as the game now demands a complete athlete.
Practitioners of other sporting codes have long observed this.
I remember some time back former world heavyweight champion George Foreman said: “It is unfair to refer to Muhammad Ali as the best boxer ever because he is the best athlete ever.”
Watching the World Cup, and observing the fitness levels the games demanded, drove home the point that, to be able to deliver consistently at the highest level, players – oops and sorry, athletes – need to be at the peak of their fitness.
It is also high time that Africa (the continent, again) stops believing that talent alone is enough to get players to the top.
Modern football has become about 40% talent, and the other 60% is attitude.
For a player to move from being a footballer to the height of a complete athlete takes the right – and I mean dollops of it – attitude.
Anyone who still thinks muti, or even prayer, will get them to the top of the pile in world football must have a rethink.
While we still have players who think they must be monitored all the time because if they are not, they are found at shisa nyamas (buy and braai butcheries), taverns and nightclubs, or loitering in shopping malls and chasing every passing skirt, the road ahead is still long and rocky.
One is also told that there are local coaches, even at professional level, who think that going to the gym is a waste of time for players because players should spend all their training time on a soccer field.
This backward mentality will not take South African and continental football anywhere.
One doesn’t have to look any further than, say, Cristiano Ronaldo when he takes off his shirt.
That kind of chiselled body of an Adonis can never be built on a football training field only.
Modern football has become more scientific. We need to mould our players along these lines from a young age.
That is why the SA Football Association needs to make sure that all football academies in the country do the right thing from the onset to ensure players get a proper foundation from a very young age.
Premier Soccer League clubs must ensure their players remain disciplined, and adhere to a strict training regime and proper diet all the time.
Without this, we will keep relying on miracles, which have become few and very far apart these days.
I know I might be criticised by African traditionalists.
I challenge anyone who disagrees with my view on this one to engage the services of the best muti man and ask him to help one African team through the next four years to qualify for and then win the World Cup just by using muti and not adopting any modern methods.
Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku