‘Njeeri’: A Reality in our Sports

‘Njeeri’: A Reality in our Sports

Sports, especially football, is said to be ‘religion’ for many people in the modern world; almost everyone is in love with soccer, wrestling or another form of sport these days. Sports enthusiasts would do everything possible to win including resorting to means such as occult rituals.

Occult spells, locally called ‘Njeeri’ in Wollof language and ‘Sitikong’ in Mandinka, are part of the African culture and it boosts the confidence of those who believe in it. Sportsmen and women are given jujus by marabous with the belief that it would provide them good luck; or sometimes impair the abilities of their opponents during competitions.

Football and wrestling are now synonymous with the occult practice called ‘njeeri/sitikong’. The practice is now being adopted by countries around the world such as Brazil and France.

Pape Saine, a veteran journalist and proprietor of the Point Newspaper, said mainly in wrestling and football, people go to marabous for prayers who would make them jujus in an attempt to win them games. “Even in Brazil they believe in what they called ‘Wodoo’,” Mr Saine told Observer Light.

He recalled that during the 1998 World Cup final between Brazil and France, which the latter won by 3-0, the former’s striker, Luis Nazario de Lima Rodaldo, was sick on the day of the final and many drew the conclusion that it was as a result of a spell cast on him by the French. He added that when Ronaldo was taken to the hospital, the doctors said they could not find anything and people in the [French] media were thanking God that their ritual had worked.

“People in France said Ronaldo, a man who was capable of spoiling their chances [of winning the World Cup on home soil] was sick and cannot play; all along they had that superstitious believe.”

Saine, who covered two World Cups and other international sports activities, said ‘njeeri’ cannot guaranty anyone to win or to be defeated. However, he said if you do ‘njeeri’ there are other means that can be used to destroy it.

This practice is widespread in Gambian sports and many people have interesting tales to tell about their personal and team experiences especially in the local Nawettan football tournaments. Does it work or not? Is it good or bad for football? These and many questions will be answered in this series we are running on ‘Njeeri/Sitikong’ on this paper for the rest of the summer football season.

by Omar Wally