Exploring the use of African traditional medicines and rituals in South African professional football
The use of illicit drugs in sport is of global concern and is well documented by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Federation of International Football Association and International Association of Athletics Federations. To counter this challenge, sporting bodies have developed policies and codes regarding such usage. The use of traditional medicines and rituals in football and in South African soccer is well known. The aim of the study was to explore the use of African traditional medicines and rituals in South African professional soccer.
After written informed consent was obtained, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five former professional South African soccer players from Limpopo Province, North West Province and Mpumalanga.
All participants confirmed the use of African traditional medicines and rituals during their time as professional soccer players. Identified substances were categorised as ‘true’ African, general traditional medicines, and medicinal procedures. Indications for use of traditional medicines and rituals were physical ailments, performance enhancement, and team rituals.
Mandatory secrecy about the practices was confirmed. Traditional medicine and ritual practices in South African soccer have been documented. This raises health, safety, ethical and legal questions, which need to be addressed with sensitivity for the cultural significance and holistic nature of these practices.
Keywords: Traditional medicines, traditional rituals, soccer, South Africa