Rwanda: Witchcraft

Witchcraft is making headlines in Rwandan football for wrong reasons where players and coaches are believed to use ‘juju’ to harm their teammates while others believe in the powers of using witchcraft to win matches.

This has left President Paul Kagame unimpressed to the extent that he decided to stop attending local football matches at stadiums.

There are cases of players whose careers are ruined by witchcraft and they were forced to call time on their football journey as a result.

Weekend Sport brings you the stories of players whose premature retirement from professional football are in any way associated with use of ‘juju.’

Andrew Buteera

Buteera is a member of the famous Rwanda U17 national team that participated in the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Championships in Mexico.

He established himself as one of the key players for APR and the senior national team but his career was marred by a series of injuries that prevented him from showcasing his talent.

His worst ever injury came in 2011 when Rwanda lost CECAFA final to Uganda.

In 2021, the player himself confessed to Times Sport that the injury came because of believing in ‘juju’ (witchcraft), a decision he still regrets in his football career due to the consequences that followed.

“A teammate I won’t mention told me to use my back while going to the pitch or else we would lose the final. There are many things that I was told which I believed in which even made my healing from injuries very difficult,” he said.

“I regret believing in juju.”

He retired from professional football aged 27.

Héritier Turatsinze:

Turatsinze was raised in the former FERWAFA Academy, and he grew up with the potential to light up the football world.

After spells with Police FC and Bugesera FC, he quit football at just 26.

He didn’t publicly admit it, but various sources suggest that his premature retirement from professional football was due to fitness problems connected to witchcraft.

Turatsinze now lives in Rubavu District.

Hegman Ngomirakiza

With his top talent, Ngomirakiza had the potential to start for any big club in domestic football and he was regarded by many as one of the best midfielders of his generation.

He helped APR FC win six league titles before he left the club for Police FC in 2015 after a decade-long spell with the army side.

Ngomirakiza was in his prime time but, to the surprise of many, he announced his retirement at the age of 24. He had played just a season at Police.

He didn’t explain the reason behind his retirement, but a player who close to him told Weekend Sport that he quit football after ‘Juju’ had started to affect his fitness.

Marcel Nzarora

Nzarora played for Rwanda in the Under-17 World Cup in 2011 held in Mexico.

He was playing for Mukura when he announced his retirement from professional football in August 2020 citing mysterious injuries.

He later got an offer to play for a team in Scotland but he still couldn’t play due to the injuries.

Nzarora played for various teams including Rayon Sports, APR FC, Musanze, and Police FC in Rwanda.

Eugène Barakagira

Eugene Barakagira had spells with second tier sides AS Muhanga and ASPOR FC before he decided to hang up his boots aged just 23, claiming that witchcraft ruined his career.

He told Weekend Sport that he had a bad experience with witchcraft and opened up that his teammates used it against him.

“I retired at the age of 23 because of witchcraft practices in Rwandan football. I can’t say if any of my teammates used them against me, but it was a bad experience that made me decide to retire,” Barakagira said.

“Before matches, there were certain rituals they would perform. Sometimes, they would exclude me from the squad list because I refused to participate in those practices. It was really terrifying.

There was a match against Rayon Sports where they removed me from the list at the last minute, although I was an important player and vice-captain. They did it because I didn’t believe in Juju,” the player further claimed.