The 2010 FIFA World Cup draws frighteningly close and we prepare to surrender our beautiful country to a throng of soccer crazy foreigners. We are less than a week away from the opening ceremony and our media has been inundating us in soccer frenzy. While paging through a cheap local magazine I found a two page spread entitled “Let’s throw the bones!” in which the editorial team took it upon themselves to consult local psychic mediums on the prospects of our national team in the upcoming sporting spectacular.
Allow me to quote the editorial team of the You magazine;
“But what are their chances realistically? Instead of cunsulting soccer experts we turned to people who say they can see into the future and ask them to have a go at predicting Bafana’s chances”
That’s “realistic”? Perhaps the editors at You decided to consult these “expert” purveyors of bullshit because they couldn’t find a credible football expert to say what they wanted to hear. A quick survey of the internet brings us the following (rather more credible) evaluations;
From The Soccer News:
However, the host of the 2010 World Cup, the South African national team (known typically as “Bafana Bafana”), is in serious danger. Looking at previous tournament results, the squad selected by coach Carlos Alberto Parreria, their group, and other factors, the team could become the first World Cup hosts to fail to reach the knock-out rounds.
From The Bleacher Report:
Now in the 19th World Cup final, we could see something happen to the host nation that has never happened before: The host nation could fail to advance onto the knockout stage, which is expected by many to happen to South Africa this year.
Before we get too depressed by all these actual professionals trash talking our boys, lets take a look at the numbers here. Exactly where do Bafana Bafana stand and how do they compare to the rest of the teams in their group, and the competition as a whole? I’m not doing this because I give a damn one way or the other about the game, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m digging out these figures to illustrate the idiocy of the You psychics.
First of all, Bafana Bafana are ranked number 88 by FIFA. That is, they are the 88th most successful football team, in order of game results, ranked by FIFA. The only reason our boys are being allowed to play in the World Cup this year is because our country is hosting the tournament. If this competition were being played anywhere else we wouldn’t even be invited.
From what I understand, Bafana Bafana need to finish in one of the top two positions in their group stage before they can advance to the knock-out round. Which other teams are in our group?
Mexico – Ranked #17 by FIFA
Uruguay – Ranked #16 by FIFA
France – Ranked #10 by FIFA
Only a mad man or a con artist would try to convince anybody that Bafana Bafana stand anything more than a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing to the knock out stages. That’s where the You magazine psychics step in. I now present a detailed breakdown of the predictions made by these “experts”, for posterity…
Leading the charge is Marietta Theunissen, a well known South African psychic, and no stranger to the local skeptical movement. Marietta’s claims to infamy include a disastrous attempt to team up with local crack pot and con artist Danie Krügel in an attempt to locate missing persons using a black box and Marietta’s intuition. They failed. Marietta’s style can be likened to cold reading (because that’s exactly what she does).
“In the course of a successful reading, the psychic may provide most of the words, but it is the client that provides most of the meaning and all of the significance.” –Ian Rowland (2000: 60)
But, enough of that! Lets see what Marietta says about Bafana’s World Cup hopes;
1. Midfielder, Siphiwe Tshabalala, will be the strongest link in the team. (Tshabalala has 42 caps and has scored 5 goals.)
2. Bafana Bafana will “take part in 60% of the tournament. The build up will be unbelievable. But I don’t see them in the final three stages. (I assume that 60% of the tournament would see our boys making it to the quarterfinals but not going through to the semis. But as the quarterfinals are the third last stage, Marietta has contradicted herself in her first two sentences. It is unclear to me why she has to phrase her prediction in such an opaque manner, perhaps she doesn’t know anything about football).
3. She sees Portugal with a strong chance of playing in the final. (No shit, Portugal is ranked #3!)
Marietta’s other predictions, including an increase in petty crime, are as safe as predicting that the sun will come up tomorrow and do not constitute a serious attempt to foresee the future.
The second psychic to have a go at this tough prediction is Tash Bassani, a graphologist and cartomancer. Cartomancy is a type of fortune telling using cards and graphology is a means of analysing handwriting to study a persons character.
Readers familiar with the techniques of cold reading will be able to understand why graphology appears to work and why so many (otherwise intelligent) people believe in it. [p. 204] – Adrian Furnham
Tash might as well be a fabrication because I can find no evidence of her existence other than this article. That said, she feels that “Bafana will get close to, or even go through to, the knockout round”. That means they might actually make it out of the group stage.
Tash tells us that her tarrot cards see England and Spain contesting the final (ranked 8th and 2nd respectively) with England triumphing because they “have a very strong team, according to my cards”. She also predicts an uptick in crime, especially crime committed against tourists, and she hits a real humdinger when she predicts a “difficult time for a player wearing a No 23 green shirt”:
Alarm bells ring around this man and it can result from anything – injury, crime, anything. This player must be cautious. It could be a player from Brazil but that’s uncertain, although the number is 23 and the shirt is green, without a doubt”
Here’s a newsflash for you, Tash, Brazil won’t be wearing green shirts at this year’s World Cup.
A quick look through the team photo’s for the teams which will actually be participating in this years World Cup and a cross check on Wikipedia yields Algeria as the only team who wear green shirts in their away games and the only player unfortunate enough to be wearing the number 23 on a green shirt is Raïs M’Bohli, this is bad for Raïs but oh so beautifully good for us. So, basically, anything bad might happen to this man. This is an absolutely ridiculous “prediction” and falls into a class of psychic dart throwing know as high probability guesses. It is so vague, and the probability of something bad happening to this man so high (anything bad would be claimed as a hit) that it is almost a sure win.
Enough of imaginary Tash and her useless cards of deception. Let us take a look at the third psychic in our lineup of shame: Sharon-Ann Riley. She has a much larger internet presence and describes herself as a psychic medium and spiritual mediator who is here “to change the world”. Her Facebook presence includes a fan page in which she describes herself as a “Pleiadian Star Shaman“. I have no idea what that means, but I get the impression that it means that she is full of shit.
Sharon-Ann’s previous attempts to make predictions about the World Cup, despite being utterly wrong, did not deter her from having another go. Early in 2009 Riley’s predictions for the upcoming year were published in a local Afrikaans newspaper. In this interview she claims, bold as the nose on your face, that:
“Ons gaan 2010 (die Wêreldbeker-sokkertoernooi) verloor, maar dit weer terugkry. Daar is reeds gesprekke agter die skerms om Suid-Afrika voor stok te kry.”
Which translates as “We will lose the 2010 (the World Cup soccer tournament) but will get it back. There are already discussions behind the scenes to get South Africa ready on time”. Sharon-Ann is alluding to persistent rumors that South Africa would be excused from hosting the World Cup due to various reasons. This did not happen. Sharon-Ann got it wrong.
This time ’round Sharon-Ann does not hold any guesses back;
“It will be touch and go. Parreira [the South African coach] will have to curb team rivalry before kick-off because it will affect their performance. Yellow cards will be the order of the day. Bafana will have to keep cool heads because hot tempers might jeopardise qualifying for the quarterfinals,”
Sharon-Ann cautions that “England and Mexico mustn’t count their chickens before they’ve hatched,” because “underdogs have a few surprises for us”. She also wants us to be surprised by her revelation that “Fans could miss the start of their favourite matches because of unscheduled transport delays.” Wow, really going for the high probability hit there in a country facing strike action in the transport sector and threats of violence against the new Bus Rapid Transit system.
It’s like nobody is holding these people responsible for the things they say.
Finally I would like to look at the comments offered by two sangomas (the more traditional African version of the psychic medium). The first sangoma, Victoria Mtshengu “sees only darkness ahead for Bafana Bafana” because they did not partake of superstitious ancestor worship ceremonies while a man identified only as Mageza threw the bones (an African method of divination) and his ancestors reveal that
“Bafana will get through to the final but Brazil will win”
Well, we will see about that, won’t we.