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Friday, February 08, 2002

Who Threw the Gri-Gri?
Not Timbers related [but when was THAT a crime], but still for the "File Under Crazy Soccer" section, have you been keeping up with the 2002 African Nations Cup?



Malian riot police handcuff and arrest Thomas N'kono, (the assistant to Cameroon's German trainer Winfried Schaefer) prior to the semi-final game between Cameroon and hosts Mali for allegedly throwing a black-magic charm (gris-gris) onto the pitch! N'kono is then knocked to the ground and dragged onto the running track adjacent to the pitch, at one point appearing with his tracksuit trousers pulled around his ankles. A disgusted Schafer implored journalists and photographers to record the furore and later a policeman retrieved an "object" from the pitch to cheers from fans in the stadium.



All this as a culmination (unless something more bizarre happens in the final) to a competition that has seen Cameroon officials and German coach Winfried Schafer (again) refusing to stay at a high-cost hotel (claiming that it was too busy and noisy, "like a market") and instead choosing a new dormitory complex (on which construction was not fully complete) and then having to negotiate piles of rubble and the fact that there were not enough beds to go round; the new African Nations Cup trophy having to be sent back to it's makers because the Anglophone Confederation of African Football (CAF) members complained that the wording on the prize was only in French and not in English as well, resulting in a replica having to be used at the final on Sunday; Cameroon (yes again!) having to climb over locked gates to get into their training session for the semi-final game and then having to play in near-darkness because the floodlights hadn't been turned on; recriminations all round as Nigeria lost to Senegal in the other semi. Players blamed Nigerian sports ministry officials saying they had upset players by threatening not to pay promised bonuses following the quarter-final win over Ghana because the team had "played rubbish." Players were also upset after sports minister Ishaya Mark Aku failed to enquire about the health of Ike Shorunmu after the goalkeeper was knocked unconscious against Ghana.

Add in mysterious illnesses to many players and complaints about the Malian heat and you have one crazy tournament...and that's before you actually talk about the games themselves!

"Zulu religious specialists prepare teams for football matches. In Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and in Liberia, supporters and team members perform rituals to influence results in their favour. In Nairobi, teams budget for religious specialists. On the middle Congo, where resources were seen as finite, a match started with a preordained number of goals. The role of team magicians in this zero-sum game was to steal points from their opponents while protecting their own goals. African sport is 'bathed in the occult', wrote a Zairois [Congolese] referee.

posted by the timberlog at 2:06 PM



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