The U.S. national soccer team has reason to feel good. Coming off a tie with England (widely regarded as the best team in their World Cup group) they can move up to the top of group standings with a win against Slovenia on Friday. That, in turn, would put the Americans in prime position to advance to the tournament’s next round. At least one person, though, believes the Americans still must make changes, or the next round will be the end for the team. That person? South African with doctor Kenneth Nephaue, the subject of an unlikely recent New York Daily News profile.
Nephaue prefers to be called a “traditional healer” rather than a witch doctor, but his soccer fandom transcends mere semantics. Unfortunately, he thinks the U.S. has a lot healing to do:
“The midfield is too lazy. Strikers, they are all right,” Nephaue says. “They can pass to the next round if they can change the midfield. If (Bradley) doesn’t change, hard luck.”
Nephaue likes to talk about luck. His practice is based on it:
[Nephaue] channels the spirits of his ancestors and those of his patients’ and clients’ ancestors.
“The luck is not from you,” he says. “Your luck is from your grandmother or grandfather. If you’re not going to believe, nothing is going to happen.”
Several reporters joined Nephaue for a session. What was it like?
He uses small pieces of elephant tusks, never human bones.
“Bad luck,” he says.
The reporters take the bones in their hands, blow into them and throw them onto the floor, where Nephaue gives his assessment of their personal lives.
As crazy as it might sound, Nephaue was spot on with some of his comments.
Hey, um, speaking of luck, we have a feeling that it might be just a bit responsible for him occasionally being “spot on.” Also, this line: “Some dismiss Nephaue as a charlatan, but he has a regular clientele” – didn’t quite convince us that his services are for real.
Back to soccer, though: to his credit, Nephaue isn’t just a South Africa homer. He sees World Cup trouble in the offing for his home country, too:
“The coach waits too long to change the boys,” he says. “He must take them out very quickly. If he doesn’t do it like that. It’s also like United States. They are going to cry at the end.”
That’s a pretty specific prediction for those teams’ disappointment. We’ll see if he’s “spot on,” but forgive us if we’re not 100 percent on board with his methods yet.