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What Explains Tanzanians’ Obsession With Superstition in Football?

Even as these clubs invest in signing top players, hiring foreign coaches and investing in modern sports training facilities, superstitious culture imbued in certain rituals is prevalent in the East African nation’s football.

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It began to rain on the morning of November 5, 2023 – the day Simba and Yanga were to meet in the Kariakoo derby. Simba fans concluded that they would go ahead and beat their arch-rivals Yanga. Simba would always beat their rivals when it rained – a superstition they have held for a long time. 

The game ended with Yanga inflicting a humiliating defeat to their rivals. Before their decisive CAF Champions League game with Algerian club Belouizdad, Yanga boasted it would unleash majini, or spirits, to defeat their opponents. The game ended with a resounding Yanga win and qualifications for the quarter-finals. 

The fans acknowledged that the majini had worked. In the past, there have been tales of players wearing totems, coaches sleeping in gravesites, teams hiring foreign mediums and many other ritualistic performances. But what explains this obsession with magic and superstition in Tanzanian football? Do these beliefs really contribute to sports success?

Tanzanian football is on the rise. Two teams from the East African nation are through to the quarter-finals of this year’s CAF Champions League. Tanzania’s passion for the beautiful game is said to have influenced the decision to award the joint African Cup of Nations 2027 to East Africa. 

READ MORE: Why East Africans Struggle to Find a Breakthrough into European Football Leagues?

In 2023, Yanga reached the finals of the CAF Confederation Cup, and Simba participated in the inaugural African Football League, an elite club tournament. Tanzanian football also prides itself on one of Africa’s biggest club rivalries – Simba and Yanga. 

These two old rivals epitomise Tanzanian cultural socialisation. To a great extent, the Tanzanian social fabric is woven around the support of Yanga, popularly known as Young African, or Simba.

But other than the bitter but friendly rivalry between these two football clubs, one thing that has added colour and spice is their obsession with juju or sorcery. Tanzanian football is replete with beliefs in magic and superstition. 

Even as these clubs invest in signing top players, hiring foreign coaches and investing in modern sports training facilities, superstitious culture imbued in certain rituals is prevalent. 

As I mentioned, these include consulting mediums for pre-game rituals such as sleeping in the stadium, pouring concoctions on the pitch, and refusing to use official gates to enter the stadium, among many others. 

READ MOREGoodbye, Mzee Rukhsa, You Leave Us Stronger And Better As Tanzanians

These rituals are done by fans, team officials and even players. Sports superstition is not unique to Africa. European and American sports also have their forms of superstition.

Tanzania is no stranger to a history of superstition. The popular adage around the East African region is that Tanzanian juju is one of the strongest. Politicians from Kenya, Uganda and the surrounding region often go to Tanzania to ‘buy’ magic to win elections. 

During a walkabout in the streets of Nairobi and other East African towns, you will see posters on electric poles and trees reading: Mganga Kutoka Tanzania, or Witch Doctor from Tanzania. 

Allegedly, these witch doctors can cure things like erectile dysfunction, boost sexual appeal, bring back lost love, and even land you high-paying jobs. Sometimes, local conmen hide under the Mganga Kutoka Tanzania tag to swindle unsuspecting clients. 

The ritual killings of albinos sometime back added to the layers of superstitious beliefs in Tanzania.

READ MORE: Fear As Albino Persecution Makes a Comeback in Tanzania

Pre- and post-match commentaries of fans outside the stadium on match days have become common in Tanzanian football. Frequently, local blog journalists interview fans to throw shade and banter at their rivals. 

But one distinct banter is that of juju and magic. Fans will praise their respective teams on the quality of players and football, but one constant is their explanation of success or failure to magic or juju. 

Scholars have tended to argue that the belief in the power of magic in sports is all about sports psychology and helps players’ psychological preparation.

Despite the advancement in sports science such as physiology, sports psychology, player conditioning and nutrition, the obsession with superstition, rituals, and magic just adds spice and juice to football entertainment in Tanzania. 

Nicodemus Minde holds a PhD in International Relations from the United States International University- Africa,  Nairobi. He can be reached on X at @decolanga. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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