Muti is used by many South African football clubs from amateur level to top-flight, but very few know the full extent the clubs and players go through to perform this superstitious ritual. This edition’s Secret Footballer is a former PSL and national team
A former Jomo Cosmos and South African youth international reveals how a duvet in a hotel caught fire in a hilarious muti-related incident
II recall one day, two days before we played against Orlando Pirates, we went to a hotel in Greyston because that is where the team preferred to stay. We were told to come to the hotel on a Thursday and we all thought we would stay there and have team meetings about the upcoming match. When we arrived, we found a muti man waiting for us. We were all curious and wondered who this old man was and what he was doing in the team hotel. The team management then explained to us that he was a muti man. We were told to cleanse first and then go to the bathroom to bath with muti. When you cleanse with muti, which is called ukufutha, you have to cover yourself with a blanket, but that day we used duvets. As we were in the process of doing that, one of the duvets caught fire by accident and chaos erupted. Before the fire could spread, we managed to stop it. We were told to stay at the hotel until everyone finished the process. The following day when we returned to camp, we found another muti man waiting for us. I looked at the other players in amazement and said, ‘No man, how many times do we have to bath with this stuff?’. And I was told to not forget that we were playing against Orlando Pirates. We were told Pirates had a much stronger muti than ours and that’s why we had to use two different muti men. That day we didn’t sleep at all. We had to bath with some strong stuff that made the skin itch and I regretted going there. No one could say anything or complain because even the white players were doing it. Everyone had to do it – the only way to avoid that was if you didn’t want to make the team. No one complained at all. But fortunately we had enough time to rest during the day so that we could play. We played the match and drew 0-0. What I can tell you from my experience of using muti is that it’s all psychological. If you believe that it will work then it will, but if you don’t, then it won’t work. At Ajax Cape Town we used to pray and win matches without using any muti. I remember the time we were going to play against Pirates at home. Pirates’ security wanted to go inside Newlands Stadium to stick carrots inside the goalposts. Our security refused, and the match had to be delayed because of those carrots, though we were given the excuse that the Pirates players had runny stomachs. I think about eight were reportedly ill, but when we heard the real story from the players, they said it’s not because they were ill, but because of the muti they couldn’t use. We later went to Vosloorus to play against Jomo Cosmos. When we arrived, we found a tray of 24 eggs inside the dressing room. But we had no problem with that, we just went inside and used the dressing room. But when Cosmos came to play us in Cape Town, coach Gordon Igesund asked me, “What can we do to disturb Cosmos?”. I remembered the eggs incident and he said, “Let’s buy eggs and leave them in the visitors dressing room”. When Cosmos arrived, they refused to enter the dressing room, thinking that we were using muti. We gave them the same treatment and they ended up using the bus as a dressing room. It was all psychological. Most teams use muti, especially big teams from Gauteng. When you use muti for the first time, you get shocked, but you end up using it because it’s the club boss that tells you to. In one of the matches in Thohoyandou, we were playing against Black Leopards. We didn’t use the dressing room because they also had muti. “Bra J” told me that he was impressed with my performance at training, so I was expecting to play. But when we got to Thohoyandou, he changed his starting line-up and I was no longer playing. I was very upset and didn’t want to talk to anyone, but Bra J had other plans for me that day. His muti man gave him two short sticks. I was then given the two sticks and was told that if our team was attacking, I had to separate the two sticks and if Black Leopards was attacking I had to put the sticks together. But because I was upset, I decided to do the opposite – when Leopards were attacking I would open the sticks and when Cosmos were attacking I would put them together. Other players said to me, ‘You are not going to play today’. At half-time Bra J said, “Eish, someone is sabotaging us here. We gave him a task and he is not executing it.” I was so angry and told him I was not here to use the sticks and passed the sticks to Rabie Nkoane. We lost the match 3-1.
MOST TEAMS USE MUTI, ESPECIALLY BIG TEAMS FROM GAUTENG.