The Australian Soccer Team and the Witch Doctor Curse

May 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm (randoms)

The Cause:

On the one hand, many of you don’t care about soccer. On the other, this might be the most awesome of all the world’s sports curses.

So the Australian national team that competes in the FIFA World Cup every four years is called The Socceroos (an odd nickname, considering the rest of the world, including Australia, calls the sport “football”). They started participating in the World Cup in 1966, but failed to qualify that year. Becoming frustrated and impatient, members of the Socceroos took advantage of the African setting of the 1970 Cup qualifiers and enlisted the help of a real live, local, Voodoo witch doctor, complete with novelty-sized bone nose ring.

According to one player’s autobiography, after reaching an agreement with the team, the witch doctor set about applying a curse on any team that would oppose the Socceroos. He did this by burying bones near each goal-post on the field that was to be used, and performed the spell or whatever. It worked; the Socceroos then subsequently beat their first opponent, Rhodesia, to advance further into the qualifying rounds and celebrated the power of the curse.

But then the witch doctor, satisfied with his work, delivered the bill for his services; a cool £1,000. Not having their WAM (Walking Around Money) with them, the players were unable to pay the bill, so the witch doctor justifiably reversed the hex onto the Socceroos themselves and bid them adieu.

The Effect:

No longer having the curse working for them, the Socceroos lost to Israel–mostly due to three players suddenly falling ill during the match. Since the witch doctor incident in 1970 and being unable to score even one goal in the 1974 World Cup campaign, the Australian national team has failed to qualify for the subsequent seven World Cup tournaments spanning 32 years.

The curse is thought to have most obviously manifested during the 1998 Cup qualifiers when the Roos held a two-goal lead over Iran in the final minutes of the game, and looked sure to qualify for the first time in 24 years. However, Iran quickly scored two goals of their own to force a draw, thus knocking the Socceroos out of their sure spot in the tournament and into their usual spot on the sidelines.

Still Not Convinced?

In 2004, Australian documentarian and comedian John Safran read Johnny Warren’s aforementioned autobiography that described the witch doctor’s hex firsthand and was inspired to travel to Africa to do a story about it for his TV show.


Witch doctor. Or maybe Screwface, from Marked for Death. Whatever.

Upon arriving, he found that the original witch doctor who had placed the curse was dead, but was able to enlist another who promised he could reverse the old jinx completely. He did so by going to the same field in Rhodesia where it all started, channeled the dead witch doctor, killed a chicken (seriously) and splattered the blood all over Safran (that part was just for fun). The following year, the Socceroos finally qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the first time in 32 years.

Not only did they qualify, but advanced into the second round, far and away the best result the little team from the little continent down under had ever achieved, making Safran a hero overnight, and confirming Voodoo as the one true religion.

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