Is there a witch doctor in the house?

Bill Brubaker
Date Published: 
Miami News


In Kenya three weeks ago, a strangled cat was found hanging from a fence after a soccer game at Nairobi City Stadium. "No one seemed to be sure for whom the cat died," the Paris Herald-Tribune reported, "but fans knew big medicine was involved."

The Miami Toros need a strong dose of big medicine tonight.

The scene is the Orange Bowl, and superstitious Steve David is juggling a lime and talking about the worst losing streak in the history of the Toros soccer club.

"How do you feel after six straight losses?" someone asks David, the leading scorer in the North American Soccer League.

"Can't sleep at night," David says.

"Are the Toros gonna' break out of this slump?"

"You know, if a team had lost six straight games in Africa," David says, "I imagine something would've already been done about it."

"You don't mean . . ."

"I mean witchcraft," David says. "Witchcraft has a bearing on soccer, you know. I think some spells can be pulled."

"You mean a witch doctor could even help the Toros?"

"Only if our players would believe in him," David says. "If a witch doctor came to the Toros and our players said, 'Oh, that's bull,' he couldn't help them. Witchcraft can only help you in soccer if you believe in it. I do."

Oh, if the Toros only had a witch doctor. Or a witch nurse. Or maybe just enough healthy players to win a game or two.

The Toros, hobbling with seven players injured, must beat the Washington Diplomats tonight at 8, at the Orange Bowl, to stay in contention for a NASL playoff berth.

The Toros haven't won a game in a month, and it's starting to get on the players' nerves.

Says forward Warren Archibald, "I'm used to victory and defeat, but this is disturbing me a lot."

Says midfielder Ronnie Sharp, "We're playing as individuals — not as a team."

Says David, who has scored 19 goals in his second NASL season, "If we don't beat Washington, we can pack our things and go back home."

Is there a witch doctor in the house?

Spell-casting has been the rage at Kenyan soccer games recently, even though officials of the sport in Africa have discouraged it. The officials notwithstanding, cats and chickens have still paid the supreme sacrifice at many Kenyan games.

David, a Trinidadian, became a believer in witchcraft and its application to soccer at the 1973 World Cup elimination playoffs in Haiti, where voodoo reigns.

He recalls that his Trinidad team was leading Haiti 5-2, when four goals were suddenly disallowed. Haiti won, 2-1. "It was some sort of supernatural thing," says Archibald, also a Trinidadian.

"Then in another game — I think Haiti was playing Guatemala — we saw this big duck or turkey fly straight onto the field," David says. "then the big thing flew straight back into the stands. Two minutes later Haiti scored a goal." And won the game, 1-0.

Sharp, the Scot, discounts all this talk about witchcraft in soccer, calling it so much rubbish.

"They may use that to win games in Africa," Sharp says, "but we had something better in Scotland — money. I remember once we were getting beaten in a game, 1-0, at halftime, when the manager of our team came in and gave us each a bonus. We went out and beat them, 2-1.

"The money sure was a good way to get us to win games."

And it sure beat having to play ball next to a bunch of strangled cats.