VOGAN, Togo, March 21 – Togo’s chief voodoo priest on Wednesday called on the country’s football federation to consider using traditional ceremonies to “chase away evil spirits” that were afflicting the national game.
“Federation bosses should organise traditional ceremonies to chase away the evil spirits that have saddened the Togolese football family,” Togbui Gnagblondjro III told AFP at his home in Vogan, some 50 kilometres to the north of the capital Lome.
“There is too much blood. We should go back to ‘the thing of our ancestors’ and hold traditional ceremonies, for we all know that in Africa, when a person dies in an accident, we hold ceremonies.”
Togolese football has been afflicted by a series of tragedies in recent years.
In 2007, 13 members of a Togolese sports ministry delegation, including the then sports minister Richard Attipoe, were killed in a helicopter accident in Sierra Leone after a qualifying match for the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The Russian-made Mi-8 chopper taking the group across the bay from the capital Freetown to the international airport at Lungi crashed after catching fire as it was about to land.
Then in Angola in January 2010, armed separatists opened fire on the national team bus at it travelled to the Africa Cup of Nations, killing two people, including assistant coach Abalo Amelete.
In November 2011, six people were killed and 26 others injured when a bus carrying members of first division side Etoile Filante of Lome overturned and caught fire some 120 km from the capital.
The victims were the assistant coach, the general-secretary, two members of the club’s medical staff, a journalist and the club cook.
According to Gnagblondjro, a traditional intermediary between the living and the dead of the world beyond, “these are the spirits of those who have died, who are following us. They died for a national cause and nothing was done for them”.
“It is the ‘Egoun’ (the god of violent deaths) that we need to chase away. These ceremonies involve several stages. In the first instance, we need to consult the oracles because it is they who will tell us what course to take.
“The heads of the FTF (Togolese Football Federation) should get in touch with us. We really need these ceremonies, otherwise Togolese football will always have problems.”
Gnagblondjro has previously claimed that Togo’s poor performance in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations was because football chiefs ignored the powers of voodoo.
Togo were beaten by Kenya 2-1 in the first leg of their 2013 Africa Nations Cup knock-out qualifier in Nairobi in February with the return leg set for Lome in June.