ABUJA, NIGERIA: (L to R) Ghanains Christian Nsiah, Eric Nkansah, Miles Myles and Gad Boake take a victory lap 13 October 2003 at the stadium in Abuja, after winning the 4×100 men”s relay at the 8th Abuja African Games. AFP PHOTO ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Ghanaian athletics legend Prof. Christian Nsiah has insisted that the resort to juju or spiritism in sports is a recipe for laziness on LifeStyle TV’s Heart and Soul programme hosted by Erasmus Kwaw.

“I feel that having spiritual belief in you and your God is good. However, people overextend and believe that God and whoever they worship is going to do the hard work for them,” the US-based Professor of Financial Economics said.

Heart and Soul has over the past year heard alarming accounts from mostly former sportsmen such as a former Minister of Youth and Sports Hon. Nii Lantey Vanderpuye who revealed how he was made to sleep at the cemetery and bathed in water used on dead bodies; former Ghana U-17 captain Emmanuel Bentil claimed to have seen ‘maame water spirit’ (marine spirit) at the Korle Gonnor beach during his colt football days; while former Black Stars players Rev. Awuley Quaye Jnr., Rev. Osei Kofi and Godfried Aduobe equally confessed to using juju to aid their careers before eventually committing their lives to Jesus Christ.

Contributing to the discussion of whether spiritism exists in athletics, Prof. Nsiah, who competed for Ghana at the highest level of sports at the Olympic Games and World Championships, responded in the affirmative and said that the overreliance on God can harm athletes.

“You cannot be successful at anything by just looking up to God. Otherwise, why did God give you brains? So for me what I ascribe to is the three Olympic ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. Without working hard at your sport, there is no way you are going to achieve what you want to achieve. Think about this: this juju thing we have in Ghana and it is going on everywhere, has been with us for a very long time.”

Known affectionately as ‘Opegasti’ during his secondary school days at the famous Opoku Ware School in Kumasi, Prof. Nsiah acknowledged the practice of juju was prevalent during his days in the 1990s.

“During those days in the school system, those juju things were really there. People really ascribed to it. But most of the people who ascribed to it had their careers short-lived. Because when you go there and start believing that somebody is doing something against you, then everything that is not going on right in your life, you will ascribe it to that.”

“Rather than you taking a critical look at yourself and saying I did this wrong and I can do it better this way, you are blaming it on the fact that somebody did juju on you. So instead of sleeping, you are going out there in the night praying at the cemetery. To me, I don’t see anything good coming out of those things.

Nsiah coached the national track and field teams at the 2019 African Games and the Oregon 2022 World Championships. He gave specific instances where suspicion of juju use by some athletes led to unrest in regional athletics teams in the past.

“I don’t personally believe or ascribe to it but one time we were in camp. We were about to do a seniors and juniors competition. We were housed in Labone Secondary. One of the guys everybody said he did that (used juju), one of the sprinters, came to another sprinter and asked him to put a handkerchief on his hand. This other guy stood shaking. Apparently, wherever he went, he was supposed to do that to the guys.

“There was an incident in camp this time in the Ashanti region while preparing for regionals. We were housed at WESCO (Wesley College). One of the guys was sleeping on somebody else’s bed. Another guy walks in and tried to drop something on his bed. He didn’t realise the guy was around. It took a whole bunch of us to separate them. It was a big fight.”

“So these things, people believe in it and because of this, they don’t work hard enough. If juju truly works, why are we not winning all the medals around? Why are we not winning the world cups? That stuff! Why it (the juju) does not travel outside Ghana?

“I really believe that if you believe in God, you pray to God or whoever you worship to help you through things however you can’t leave a life where you leave everything to God.

Further, he recounted a story about a mother who complained to him about her son’s low academic exploits.

“There is a little kid that I know and one day the mom told me he was not doing well at school. When I was in Ghana one day, I noticed the mom was going out with him at 8 pm. It was a Wednesday night. They were going to an all-night (church) service which means the kid has to go to school the next day. You see the problem: the kid will go to school on Thursday (and sleep in class), and you will blame it on witchcraft and all that. You are the one causing it.”

“Part of it also is because of the churches. They break up families because they tell you your mother is a witch and your father is a wizard, all sorts of stories that they tell people in other to take advantage of them. And people believe in this so they spend their time, resources and finances on them.”

Asked why certain foreign-based players in the senior national team the Black Stars harbour fears about the use of juju in the team, Prof. Nsiah responded:

“It is a belief system. You can take somebody outside Ghana but you cannot take Ghana out of them. So then if a person believes in that (juju), then they believe it works.”

Prof. Nisah competed at the 1999 World Championships and the Olympic Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He is remembered for famously being part of the men’s 4x100m relay quartet of Leo Myles-Mills, Aziz Zakari, and Eric Nkansah that beat Nigeria to All Africa Games gold at Abuga 2003.

Heart and Soul airs on Saturdays at 11:00 am on LifeStyle TV and replays on Fridays at 3:30 pm.


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