Sports science: Brazil 2014 and the ‘magic’ of football

I suppose many Americans will be glad that their football team beat Ghana 2-1 last night. Why? Many African and Caribbean people were watching for the effects of ‘science’. They knew that Ghana proudly uses witchcraft and wondered how powerful it was. One of that country’s renowned Obeah men had signalled months ago that Christiano Ronaldo would miss the World Cup because of injury. He’s there but badly injured. Coincidence?

A friend quipped last week that Ghana had travelled to Brazil with not one but three witch doctors. Last night, at least three could be seen in the crowd.


Jamaicans take Obeah seriously. So too do many Brazilians. The USA scored within the first minute. What science? When Ghana scored an equaliser late in the second half, those who trusted science smiled. But, just as centuries ago, the white man had stronger magic. The USA scored its winner with minutes to spare. Science undone?

The jokes flew around social media that the witch doctor had only been paid for one goal. Others mentioned the USA’s having the Illuminati in their corner.

I’m not getting into the middle of that cock fight. I know what I know and have been there when freshly sacrificed chicken blood was splashed on the pitch. That a British ambassador presided over the ceremonial kick off just made it bizarre not unreal.

Many teams and sportsmen and women now use psychological experts. They say that golf is 90 percent mental and the rest is between the ears. The US coach, Klinsman, is one known to use cerebral methods. He’s no Phil Jackson, though.

Many players are mentally unstable. Why else would they throw their heads at flying objects, including boots? The USA’s goal scorer, Clint Dempsey, thinks his nose was broken in such an encounter against Ghana. How interesting. Maybe, science was working after all :-o.

Portugal lost 4-0 to Germany, and had a player sent off for ‘head butting’. I saw replays and it was silly. There was at best a rubbing of foreheads. Mueller made sure no doubt would be there. But, the interpretation of violent conduct can easily be met by the action of the butter. The Portuguese player ejected was ‘Pepe’, a Brazilian native. How very well interesting.

Pepe seeks to make contact with his head. Case closed.

Maybe, science at work, again. You know it works on those who think it works.

At its simplest, economics is about choosing choices. Dumb ones are not excluded. Mueller had no incentive to show anything but being badly hurt. Some will vilify him. Blame FIFA.

I always selected players based on attitude and aptitudes, not ability. A player can be taught technical skills but the mental and spiritual are harder to mould. The best can think through situations better. They make smarter decisions, like Mueller did. Using your head is literal and figurative.

They can also use some ‘science’. Some call their rituals superstitions. Nadal and his bottles. Tennis players not walking on lines. Footballers dressing in the same manner every time. The lucky chain. The pointing to the sky. Oh, science.