Ahead of the second season of Heart and Soul on LifeStyle TV, former Ghana U-17 captain Emmanuel Bentil has revealed on LifeStyle TV’s Heart and Soul investigative programme that his colts football team frequented the Korle Gonnor beach to consult maame water spirit at midnight to win football matches.
Hosted by Ghana’s Press Attaché at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Saturday’s at 11:00am, Erasmus Kwaw, Heart and Soul explores the relationship between religion and sports, and how it affects the African football game.
Asked on LifeStyle TV’s Heart and Soul programme whether he also experienced juju while playing at the colts level, he responded in the affirmative and recalled the instances when such events occurred.
“Yes, I did,” he said adding, “We went to certain places for rituals to win games. I remember even when I played monchendi (a highly competitive local football game in the 80s and 90s where teams and individuals stake bets on the outcome of matches) at Chorkor, a suburb of Accra. We used to go to the beach maybe at midnight; maybe 1 o clock in the morning or 2 O clock in the morning.
At the height of Ghana’s dominance of the youth football games in the 90s, the nation won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Italy 1991 and Ecuador 1995, where Emmanuel Bentil captained the national team.
“The whole team had to go there and pray. They will pray and call the saints and sometimes you can hear things, noise and something will come out from the sea.
Pressed for which things came from the sea, he said, “like maame water (mermaid)”, adding, the strange occurrence in this particular instance occurred at the Korle Gonnor beach.”
Meanwhile, Bentil claimed many of the 1995 national team U-17 players sustained life-threatening knee injuries which eventually ended their careers after the team failed to “show appreciation” to a spiritualist, one Acquah Isaacs who ‘assisted’ the team with prayers before the triumph at the FIFA World Cup victory in Ecuador.
He named several players from that generation of players including himself, Stephen Appiah, Awudu Issaka, Christian Atta Gyan, Attakora Amaniampong, Abu Iddrisu, and Charles Allotey.
Asked about the possibility that his teammates may have sustained the knee injuries as a result of wear and tear normally associated with footballers or sportsmen, Bentil insisted the injuries were a result of a curse
“Not like the way it happened to the whole group. Most of us ended up with knee injuries,” Bentil insisted.
The use of juju, magic and witchcraft in football evokes mixed reactions among football fans. The senior national team the Black Stars have not been spared the ordeal with reports of the use of black magic among the players at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon 2021.
In 2012, Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic caused a major uproar after claiming some players used witchcraft against their teammates at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (BBC, 2012). The Serbian made his claim in a leaked report on the Black Stars’ failure at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, where they were beaten by eventual winners Zambia in the semi-finals.
“We all need to help in changing some players’ mentality about using ‘black power’ to destroy themselves, and also make sure we instill discipline and respect for each other,” the coach said in a leaked technical report to the Ghana Football Association.
But Ghanaian coaching legend C.K. Gyamfi banished witchcraft, magic and juju practices in his team that won the AFCON in 1963, 1965 and 1982, because in his view “juju did not play football.”
The Ghanaian great told author Francis Botchway, a guest on Heart and Soul, that, “My team then decided to discard the services of the medicine men and rather rely on Christian prayers, good tactical systems, hard work, discipline, and motivation.”
African football is riddled with stories about the use of juju, magic and witchcraft to aid the success of football teams. But opinions are divided on the subject area with many questioning the efficacy of such adventures while some others place much value on the act.
It will be recalled that the first season of Heart and Soul aired on LifeStyle TV in 2021 and it was made up of 14 episodes, involving guests who gave fascinating insight from authors, ex-footballers, and sportsmen who shared their stories of faith in God.
The second season of the programme is scheduled to start on Saturday, 23 April from 11:00 am to 11:30 am.