Harare, Zimbabwe • Animal bones, hair, feathers and river pebbles are secreted around sports fields. The goal posts have been sprinkled with urine. The soccer players, some of whom have smeared ancient herbal potions on themselves, take the field.
It's a typical soccer match in Zimbabwe, and the presence of such charms shows that, among many teams in Africa, it is as important to have the magical properties of witchcraft on your side as it is to have fit and talented players.
Now, the CAPS United team in Zimbabwe is calling foul after their rivals, a team called How Mine, allegedly used "juju," or witchcraft, during a key match this month. CAPS United said its officials checked out the dressing room of its opponents 15 minutes after the match started and found suspicious objects, including lighted candles and bottles of liquid, arrayed in an 11-man team formation.
How Mine won the Nov. 10 match, and insisted the candles and filled bottles were used for Christian prayers. The win sent the team to the Premier League finals to contend for a $200,000 cup title on Nov. 30.
How Mine coach Philani "Beefy" Ncube, a self-avowed Christian, has denied he uses magical powers invoked by spirit mediums to influence matches and scare opponents.