Rio Olympics

Voodoo gods summoned to help Brazil's faltering football team

After failing to score a goal in their two opening Olympic matches, some supporters have resorted to black magic in order to inspire Neymar and co. against Denmark

Voodoo gods summoned to help Brazil's faltering football team
Celso Junior

Brazil's football team is doing so poorly at the Olympics that people are looking to the heavens for salvationGods -- from Afro-Brazilian rites known as Candomble, Umbanda and Macumba -- are being invoked.

And the deities must act quickly because Brazil's mighty men's team could crash out of the tournament on Wednesday if they do not beat Denmark. So far the once legendary 'Selecao' has managed two scoreless draws against lowly South Africa and even lower Iraq. In Brazil, where football is a religion of its own, that's a ghastly sin.

Helio Sillman, a follower of the Afro-Brazilian rites, staged a Macumba ritual to help the home team and its star player and team captain, Neymar.

"The Brazil team has no Olympic spirit"

"The Brazil team has no Olympic spirit. I am going to ask Odum, the god of strength, to give Neymar 'good fluids' for him to recover the desire to go all out," Sillman told AFP. He wore a T-shirt honouring the national side and around his neck, pearl necklaces typical of the religious rites and colored green and gold, the team colors.

Neymar Jr #10 Brasil during the men's soccer match bewtween Brazil and Iraq at Mane Garrincha Stadium during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Sillman has set up his little voodoo altar in a shop he runs -- the name translates as "World of Divinities" -- in a big market called Madureira. The shop is brimming with more than 5,000 amulets, stuff for rituals such as drums, and small statues of gods, such as Yemanja, the goddess of the sea for those who believe in Candomble.

How to summon higher powers: Some grapes...and two candles 

Sillman explains how to summon the higher powers: on a large wooden plate he places 11 dolls side by side, each one representing a member of Brazil's team. Then, some grapes, grains of rice and sprigs of wheat, all of which represent prosperity. Finally, two candles are lit -- one green and one yellow, to send light to the players.

Sillman picks up doll number 10 and moves his left leg forward, then the right one. "This is Neymar. He runs, he dribbles," Sillman said Tuesday. "He is going to score goals."

Even during the Olympics, with so many sports to choose from, Brazilians only have eyes for football. The men's national team disgraced the country in the World Cup final in 2014, losing to Germany 7-1. It has yet to recover from that ignominy.

In the game against Denmark, Brazil will qualify for the next round with a win -- lose, and it's out. A tie means Brazil depends on the result of a game between Iraq and South Africa also Wednesday.