South Africa Fans Pin Hopes on World Cup Witchcraft

A bit of magic could boost Befana Befana
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2010 4:37 AM CDT
South Africa Fans Pin Hopes on World Cup Witchcraft
A traditional doll stands outside a shop at the Mai Mai market in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is dedicated to traditional medicine, or "muti."   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

(Newser) – A bit of magic just might boost South Africa's chances in the World Cup. That's what practioners of muti—a Zulu word referring to traditional medicine and witchcraft—are hoping as they brew concoctions of plants and animal parts in a bid to help the second-lowest-ranked team in the competition, reports the Wall Street Journal. "You use horse's foot and ostrich leg, you mix it with herbs and you put it on the players. When they kick, even the goalkeeper can't get hold of that ball," said a muti practitioner.

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The team, Bafana Befana, is denying it indulges in muti, but everyone knows acknowledging use of magic robs it of power. "It's something we don't use," said a team spokesman. "We believe in pure excellence and skill." Muti is used in many aspects of South African life, including sports. A Soweto soccer team recently credited its victories to muti. It's also been used in competitions in other nations. A new artificial turf field was damaged in Swaziland last year when chicken feathers were buried in the center before a league match. (Read more 2010 World Cup stories.)

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