Witch-doctoring | Bathing in chicken blood for the good of the side

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John Safran takes a chicken-blood bath, all for the good of the side. Link to Real Media Player excerpt from Speaking in Tongues.Sydney | Now that Australia has ended a 32-year absence from the World Cup finals, comedian and spiritual dabbler John Safran has been extolled for his sacrificial efforts in revoking a Mozambican witch doctor’s curse dating to 1969. The footage of Safran being bathed in chicken blood on the grounds of a Mozambique stadium at which Australia defeated Rhodesia in a second-leg World Cup qualifier appears on today’s installment of Speaking in Tongues, a current affairs/chat show with an emphasis on religion. (The co-host is Fr. Bob Maguire, 70, a somewhat dyspeptic priest with a strong record on social-justice issues.)

In 2004, Safran heard about the curse from the late Australian international Johnny Warren. The curse originated when the Australian players failed to fork over £1,000 after the curse was set successfully on the Rhodesian opponents. “The players left the country without paying up and Johnny sincerely believed that, ever since, Australian soccer has been cursed,” Safran says. “The next game the team played, three players fell ill and from then on it’s been one extraordinary circumstance after another.”

Safran pursued his investigation on a previous show, John Safran vs. God. The original witch doctor had died, but his spirit was channeled; on return to Sydney, Safran and Warren bathed in clay. Safran concludes, in theologically irrefutable manner, that “this Uruguay versus Australia was Catholicism versus witch-doctorism, and it looks like witch-doctorism won out.” Father Bob replies, a few leaps of reasoning down the line, “That’s a scoop, viewers. [Uruguay] lost the soccer because they left the Catholic Church and flung themselves into the arms of the Protestant Pentecostals.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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