The conspiracy theory surrounding France’s 1-0 defeat to Senegal in the 2002 FIFA World Cup opener appears not to be dying down even after 18 years since the final whistle of that game.
Many people, in France and in Senegal, believed the Teranga Lions’ success was tied to some ritual backing. Even the team, upon arrival from the tournament held in Japan and South Korea, paid a thankful visit to a “Marabout” (witch doctor) in Dakar.
It is not uncommon in Senegal, many sport practitioners, mostly wrestlers, have at least one Marabout to oversee their career.
Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit, who was a member of France team at the 2002 World Cup, is the latest personality to talk about that “mysterious” game.
“Witch doctors probably contributed to that mysterious game,” he told Paris-based radio RMC Sport, where he also serves as consultant.
“Let me tell you a story. One year before the 2002 World Cup, I was at a beach in France and met a Senegalese hawker. He walked up to me and said ‘Look, the World Cup that will be played in 12 months, France will meet Senegal and Senegal will win by 1-0, because our witch doctors are very strong in Senegal. You will see.’ I wasn’t sure of anything until it truly happened a year later,” Petit said.
On May 31, 2002 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, then defending champions France were handed a shock defeat by debutants Senegal through defender Papa Bouba Diop. It was the beginning of Les Bleus’ woeful campaign that ended in a group-stage elimination.
“I think the different events keep reinforcing that belief that something beyond field football happened between us, France and Senegal that day,” he said.