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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cameroon relies on juju - What will restore Indian glory ?

The last time he played at Adelaide, Virender Sehwag was on a roll – much water has flowed since.  India surrendered meekly at Perth and not many heads are going to roll – Dhoni is out by force and not by any choice.  Prasanna Wriddhiman Saha will fill his boot – but whether he will allow the commentator to pronounce him fully remains to be seen !  Loss after loss – more humiliation, folding without fight – what will make the dressing room come out of feel good factor – there are Managers, Coaches and more out there – the main problem appears to be players also returning too soon rather than be out in the middle.  Vice-captain Virender Sehwag,whose position in the team  itself has become debatable is going to lead in the Final Test – more than a bit confused on what would be his role.  Will it be assertive, hard grind, raising the morale or salvaging pride by playing out for a draw at least.   

A couple of days back,  there was a report on whether a section is too harsh on VVS Laxman – no doubt he had played some good knocks but should anybody be allowed to take their place for granted and that should apply to all Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni and anyone else – if one fails in 4 innings, he should not be a certainty in the next test.  Some may tend to ask whether Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Manoj Tiwari or somebody else would have done better – for sure if they had performed similarly, they would not have played at Perth and no questions of Adelaide !

A legend need not be as big as the other….. in 1990 FIFA at Italy, there was a player from a lesser known country who caught eveybody’s attention by the goal scored and the jiggle after that – that was Roger Milla.   Albert Roger Mooh Miller,  played for Cameroon as a striker and soon became a major star – he achieved this stardom at 38 years of age by which most would have retired.  Against Columbia he scored a goal from far helping Cameroon to reach Quarter Finals.  His trademark celebration was that of running to corner flag and dance. 

Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon  is a country in west Central Africa;  bordered by Nigeria, Chad, Congo and more.  The country is called "Africa in miniature" for its geological and cultural diversity.  Football spellbinds the Nation and they are Africa’s most successful side, having qualified for  FIFA World Cup six times.  They have also won four Africa Cup of Nations titles.

Football fans over there are gearing up for the African Cup of Nations, held every two years.   There is an interesting BBC report on  the continued use of supposedly magic charms by players and officials in Cameroon.   In Cameroon, football is favourite sport attracting huge crowds.  It is not the game, the players, the goal alone – behind  the scenes marabouts - or juju men - also claim credit.  Armed, they say, with supernatural powers, these witchdoctors prepare charms that they believe will help propel teams to victory and confuse opponents.

There are a number of ways that football charms can be administered. Palm oil, popularly known in Cameroon as manyanga, could be rubbed on the ankles or kola nuts, another charm, could be given to players to eat.  In other cases, the players may be asked to jump over a bonfire before the game. Or players may be nicked in the ankles with a razor blade and black powder rubbed into the wounds. Then they would be given rules such as not shaking hands with anybody before the encounter or entering the field by walking backwards.  In the past even more extreme practices were undertaken in the name of football success.  It was very common to hear that players of a team had gone camping in a graveyard the night before an important game.

The objective was to harness some invisible force from the departed. The juju man would assure the players not to panic if they heard a noise or felt a touch in the dark as this could be the "ghost" filling their boots with supernatural powers.  While many believe that such witchcraft is dying out, the Menchum Voice newspaper in Cameroon recently reported on the practice at a local football cup final. Michel Zoah, Cameroon's minister of sport and physical education, faced questions from members of parliament about the dismal performance of the national side, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, at South Africa's World Cup in 2010.  The report also recalls that during one of Cameroon's local cup finals in 1975, the goalkeeper of Aigles of Nkongsamba came onto the pitch with a live eagle.  A traditional healer was quoted as stating ‘European players take drugs to improve their performance. We Africans do not have access to drugs. We've got a third eye and traditional concoctions that scientific tests cannot detect”.  It could take more than magic charms to restore Cameroon football to its former glory.

And perhaps it requires something of such a magic charm to make the present Indian Team regain its lost glory

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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