In November 1969, the Australian national team travelled to Mozambique to play against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in a qualification series for a place in the 1970 FIFA World Cup held in Mexico. The Australians were favourites and the matches were expected to be nothing short of a formality. The first match ended in a 1-1 draw. Bobby Chalmers put Rhodesia ahead on 63 minutes only for Australia's Tommy McColl to equalise five minutes later.
In the second match, both teams could not be separated and neither scored. A third match was required.
A local journalist gave the Australian team, including team doctor Brian Corrigan, a tip to win the match. He suggested using a local witch doctor (nyunga) to curse the Rhodesian team. So the story goes, the witch doctor went to the pitch where the game was to be played, buried some bones near the goal posts, and placed a curse on the Rhodesians.
Australia won 3-1.
Apparently, the fee for the curse was $1,000.00, which the Australians involved were unwilling to pay. With qualification to the next round confirmed, the Australian team flew out of Mozambique without paying, leaving the witch doctor no choice but to reverse the curse and put it on the Australians.
Australian football icon, Johnny Warren, said, "From the moment he put the curse on us, everything went wrong for the team." Israel would defeat Australia in the final qualifying round to progress to the Finals in Mexico.
Warren attributed every World Cup qualification failure from that moment to the witch doctor.
"The way the game has self-destructed [in Australia], has shot itself in the foot so many times, been its own worst enemy, and you always think, 'Ah, the witch doctor.' The curse is still working."
John Safran, Australian radio personality, satirist, documentary-maker and author, assisted Australia in an uncanny plot to reverse the curse in 2004. Safran decided to travel to the very pitch where the curse was placed on the Australian national team, employ the services of another local witch doctor to reverse the curse (which included countless rituals) before returning home to meet Warren at Sydney's Olympic Stadium.
The witch doctor had given them some special clay in which they smeared over themselves on the grass, where the Socceroos would play Uruguay to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup on 16 November, 2005. Sadly, Warren passed away almost a year to the date.
The Socceroos defeated Uruguay on penalties and the rest is history.
Some players and sections of the media have always questioned the authenticity of the witch doctor story. However, Warren and others have stood by it. Whatever the case may be, it is a tale for the ages.
The Witch Doctor Mozambique 1969 T-shirt
- Unisex, regular fit
- Crew neck
- Mid-weight, 180 GSM
- 100% combed cotton
- Neck ribbing, side seamed, shoulder to shoulder tape, double needle hems, preshrunk to minimise shrinkage
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