It was the day of the big game. My friend, Mohamed, came to me and invited me to attend the match with him. One of the two main soccer teams from Casablanca, Raja, was going to play the national team from Senegal.
We approached the stadium about half an hour before the game was to start. Many of the seats were already filled. As we sat down, Mohamed nudged me and pointed.
“Look! The goalkeeper for Senegal is digging! That is bad.”
I could see the man crouched in front of the goal he would be defending. He had dug a small hole with his hands and was dropping something in.
“What is it?” I asked.
“They have magic. It is very powerful. He is burying something that will protect the goal and not allow the ball to enter. Our team is in trouble,” my friend replied.
“Wait. You are a good Muslim. Surely you don’t believe in this sort of thing,” I asked.
“Of course I believe in it!” he replied. “How could I not? Sorcery and magic are in the book, so I know they are real. We were warned to avoid these things.”
I didn’t know how to reply, so I just sat back to see what would happen. The game started slowly, with the two teams taking their turns to learn the other team’s defense strategy while attempting to penetrate it and score.
The Moroccan team tried again and again to score. Each shot was blocked by the Senegalese goalie.
“You see?” my friend asked. “Do you see how strong their magic is?”
I could hear despair in his voice. Before I could reply, Senegal scored a goal. The crowd erupted in moans, cries, and a corporate time of mourning. There were shouts and accusations of cheating and rules violations, the usual.
At halftime, the score remained zero to one, in the Senegal team’s favor.
A man came by selling handmade sandwiches, made of egg, mayonnaise, and spices on half loaves of French baguettes. Mohamed and I bought and shared one, while I listened to his lament over the power of the sub-Saharan goalie and his occult skills.
“Look, he’s doing it again!”
At halftime, the teams switch sides on the field. I didn’t notice him dig the old one up, but as I turned to look, I could see the same man digging and placing something in the ground in front of the goal he would defending in the second half of the game.
“We have to find a way to defeat their magic, or we will never win.” I could hear the same sentiment murmured over and over in the crowd around us.
The half got underway. Both sides were playing good defense, and the ball never got close to either goal. Then, with about ten minutes left in the game, a boy ran out to the field. He looked to be about twelve years old, and he was being chased by three security guards.
The crowd erupted in an exuberant cheer. My friend elbowed me to get my attention and to make sure I wouldn’t miss the excitement.
“Look! He’s going to get it!”
Sure enough, the boy ran quickly to the spot where the opposing player had buried his talisman, dug it up, and was nearly off of the field before the security men caught up. As they carried him out of the stadium, the crowd went wild, cheering their support loudly.
At that moment, the Moroccan team scored a goal. A celebration erupted such as I have never seen. Joy was everywhere, the joy of triumph. This seemed greater than a typical celebration over scoring, this was good overcoming evil, a winning of the war, the stadium’s Independence Day.
With two minutes left in the game, the Moroccan team scored again. The cheers never ceased, but continued well after the game itself was over.
My friend and I were carried out of the stadium by a river of people, twenty thousand strong, all flowing to the one exit door that was open and into the streets. We walked a mile through the streets of Casablanca listening to the shouts and jubilation of the victors.
As we did, he repeated over and over, “Did you see? Did you see? They have great power, but we found a way to defeat it!”