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Witchcraft or mind games?

Do you believe in witchcraft? I don’t but I do believe in manipulating people’s minds to achieve certain results. That is exactly what happened between Gor Mahia’s Tanzanian goalkeeper Ivo Mapunda and Sofapaka players on Tuesday.

Firstly, congratulations to Gor Mahia for winning the Football Kenya Federation President’s Cup on Tuesday, qualifying to represent Kenya in next year’s Confederations Cup of Africa tournament. What an entertaining game the final was.

Both teams turned up determined to get the victory and I agree with Gor Mahia coach Zdravko Logarusic when he says that it was the greatest game of football, in terms of quality, to be played in Kenya since he arrived on the scene.

Despite both teams being determined, Sofapaka gave a better account of themselves throughout the 90 minutes plus extra time and hit the post on several occasions. Mapunda was also in his element with save after save after save.

Unfortunately for Sofapaka, if you don’t score you don’t win.

Enter “The Towel”.

Ivo Mapunda is ingenious. He played with all of our minds by creating the impression that the towel hanging on his goal net, which looks like all towels that hang on goalkeepers’ goal nets, has magical powers. When, at some point in the game, a Sofapaka player removed the towel and threw it on the ground. The keeper got angry and the referee allowed him to pick it up and return it.

Sofapaka striker John Barasa does not miss clear chances, which is why he has won the Golden Boot three times. Even if you don’t want to believe in uchawi (witchcraft in KiSwahili), how did John Barasa kick the ball sky-high when faced with an open goal? Eh?

I don’t believe in witchcraft, so at the end of the 120 minutes (90 plus extra time) I waited with bated breath for Sofapaka to score their first penalty, for me to dispense with the uchawi notion.

As expected, Mapunda stepped up with his towel, hung it on the net and began dancing across goal the way keepers do before a penalty. When he saved the first one I dismissed it because Sofapaka’s Eugene Asike isn’t the best penalty taker in the world. When Mapunda made the second save I gasped but said luck does happen.

When Humphrey Mieno stepped forward I told myself, the towel is going down! As Mieno’s ball hit the post my husband and I looked at each other in silence for about five seconds… then burst out laughing. Neither of us believe in uchawi so then what was going on?

When we calmed down we discussed the situation and agreed that Mapunda was playing mind games and Sofapaka players fell for it.

The morning after, Mapunda confirmed our suspicions when he went on national radio and said, and I quote: “I played with their (Sofapaka players) minds. It reached a point where they were not playing against me, they were playing against the towel.”


I’m smiling about all this but I feel a bit sorry for Sofapaka for giving Gor Mahia the game of the season and then giving in to mind games. Coach David Ouma was also smiling at the end of the match, saying he couldn’t complain at all about how his Sofapaka team had played.

I could and I did. Sofapaka should have concentrated on the game and not focused on what “uchawi” Mapunda had or had not brought. It cost them continental football.

#MapundaTowel was trending on twitter for a few hours on Tuesday night and we all had a great laugh about it but I’m not sure it’s a tale that Sofapaka players will be proud to tell their grand children.

The mind is a very powerful thing and if you can manipulate it you control that person. Just ask Ivo Mapunda!

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