Skip to Content
Children with an Alive & Kicking ball

Tag: Ouidah

Voodoo Pope

Football as we know it began with a match at Battersea Park in London on January 9th 1864. Voodoo’s origins come from Ouidah, Benin. “You cannot talk about Voodoo without talking about Ouidah” says Casim Marcos from DHL Benin. And there would be no football without a ball.

The Ball has received many blessings en route and we think that one from a practitioner of Voodoo would be a fantastic addition. We arrive in Ouidah and visit the mayor; he stamps The Ball.

The Ball gets stamped by the Mayor of OuidahThe Ball gets stamped by the Mayor of Ouidah

“We would dearly love to introduce The Ball to a Voodoo practitioner and see if we can get a blessing for it,” says Andrew. The mayor knows what to do. After gathering his councilors for a photo with The Ball, he consults an aide and we are led off to meet a Voodoo practitioner, but just any Voodoo practitioner. He is Houngwe Towakon Guedehoungu, the so-called Pope of Voodoo, and the leading practitioner of Voodoo on the planet.

All hands on The Ball in front of Ouidah's City HallAll hands on The Ball in front of Ouidah’s City Hall

Andrew breathes a sigh of relief that the snake pit he was supposed to visit on the way to the Voodoo Pope is closed – we are too late. There will be no pythons wrapped around his neck and no tip-toeing through piles of slithering snakes, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style, no, not today. As the sun goes down, we follow our police escort, sirens blazing, through the narrow dirt back streets of Benin’s cleanest city. We arrive and are escorted into the Vatican of Voodoo, through a courtyard displaying various carvings representing Voodoo gods and led into the Pope’s private meeting room.

A mermaid shows the way into voodoo's VaticanA mermaid shows the way into Voodoo’s Vatican

The compound’s inner walls are filled with art work depicting Voodoo’s beliefs and the different gods of Voodoo worship.

Artwork on an inner wallArtwork on an inner wall

After a few minutes the Voodoo Pope enters. Special Olympics’ Director explains to him what The Ball is all about. The Voodoo Pope examines The Ball, looks intensely at all those gathered around, and then calls upon many different Voodoo gods.

The Voodoo King listens as we explain about The BallThe Voodoo Pope listens as we talk about The Ball

Consulting with them and using his powers (as well as those he inherited from his father) he gives The Ball a benediction, telling us that we are on a noble mission. “The gods will protect The Ball and its carriers.” The good news doesn’t stop there. We find out that the gods will also protect the World Cup in South Africa and ensure that it will be a big event for all of Africa. He calls for an African team to win the World Cup.

The Voodoo King blesses The BallThe Voodoo Pope calls for an African team to win the World Cup

The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.