FOOTBALL and superstition have shared a smouldering romance since the dawn of man. But when Uganda takes on Benin this weekend, the Cranes will confront a nation so deeply entrenched in its practice of juju that it considers it a national religion. Laszlo Csaba and his troops arrived in Coton
FOOTBALL and superstition have shared a smouldering romance since the dawn of man. But when Uganda takes on Benin this weekend, the Cranes will confront a nation so deeply entrenched in its practice of juju that it considers it a national religion. Laszlo Csaba and his troops arrived in Cotonou today, and â€” suffice it to say â€” the team has venturing where even angels dare not tread.
Csaba left without four key stars but itâ€™s doubtful he would have possessed a team to fly out with at all had the travelling players held an inkling of what exactly lies at the end of their flight.
Benin, put bluntly, has a dubious reputation as the cradle of witchcraft.
And where other African countries have tried to distance themselves from the stain of witchcraft, Benin proudly wears its badge as the birthplace of voodoo.
An official religion practiced by over 70% of the population, voodoo is so widespread in Benin that January 10 remains a national, public holiday to celebrate voodoo practices all over the country.
The January 10 National Voodoo Day was inaugurated in 1996 when the government bowed to local pressure and passed a law granting voodoo equal religious status to Christianity and Islam.
National Voodoo Day
Since then, the National Voodoo Bureau has organised the National Voodoo Day â€” an annual ceremony that takes place at the same Cotonou stadium where the Cranes are scheduled to play.
The Voodoo Bureau â€” headed by a Parliamentary appointee â€” set out to make the National Voodoo Day the international symbol for Benin.
And God bless its soul, the Bureau has so far recorded roaring success.
Voodoo practitioners from as far away as Haiti and the United States make the annual trek to Benin to partake in the diabolical festival.
And along with the genuine pilgrims have come the curious tourists and assorted journalists who have turned Beninâ€™s National Voodoo Day into an internet phenomenon.
Not that everyone in Benin has welcomed the liberal freedom granted to juju adherents.
Christians and gospel workers have complained against growing persecution from witch doctors.
Task for Cranes
â€œTheir attacks are continual, the warfare is intense. We appeal to the government but itâ€™s done nothing to stop them,â€ one missionary told the BBC.
Mercifully, Benin hasnâ€™t transformed its juju prowess into football might â€” yet. Ranked 103rd by FIFA, the Squirrels remain footballing midgets with just two Nations Cup appearances to their name.
Nonetheless, having travelled without Ibra Sekagya, Geoffrey Massa, Noah Kasule and Nestroy Kizito, Csaba must feel like a â€˜cursedâ€™ man.
The German and his team will have to sink to their knees and pray that Cranes register more success against their hosts than the Benin government has had fighting juju.
Juju is Cranes' no.1 threat in Benin tie