When the Elephants fall, all eyes turn to Akradio. This Adioukrou village of 15,000 inhabitants is however far from the stadiums of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), near Dabou, an hour’s asphalt road and half an hour’s dirt track from Abidjan. But it is home to a community of wizards who are credited with considerable influence over continental football scores.

It therefore took little time, Monday January 22, after the humiliating 4-0 inflicted by Equatorial Guinea on Ivory Coast, for disappointed supporters to attribute their defeat to the wizards of Akradio. Riots broke out in the village even before the end of the match, with residents taking on supposed fetishists, soon followed by a fire, images of which went viral on social networks.

In one of these videos, we see a mound of wood burning at the entrance to the village, in front of an agitated crowd, while the man filming ironically comments: “Well done my village, I am proud of you, Akradio. Unfortunately, they sold out the match! Look, they are burning down [a] lady’s house. She hijacked the match. She’s not alone, eh! » A report then circulated on WhatsApp groups, attributed to the police district chief, who claims to have been sent to Akradio Monday evening by the gendarmerie commander of Dabou.

“An old woman aged 70, named Amélie Tuo Lath, would have mystically sold the Ivory Coast match, indicates the report, which caused the heavy defeat of our national team. This angered the people of the village, who set fire to his house. » Still according to this report, the police and gendarmerie quickly calmed the situation, with only some material damage being reported. The woman in question would have been found by the gendarmes “in the neighboring village” and would have admitted to them “being behind the defeat of the Ivory Coast national team”.

Wizards described as “psychological trainers”

In Akradio, where two gendarmerie trucks were still parked Tuesday afternoon, the authorities refused to make any statement. The village chief, who was staying in France during the unrest, promised to give a press conference to present the conclusions of the ongoing gendarmerie investigation.

The resident chief, Victor Latt, is content for the moment to deny the false information which targets the community. “The lady they caught wasn’t hidden in the neighboring village,” he sighs. I was the one who called the police and we went to find her at her in-laws, 3 km from Akradio. And it wasn’t his house that they burned down. It was the apatam [an open kiosk] of another resident, who sold food there. » The manager does not hide his weariness of seeing the name of his village circulating throughout the Ivorian Web, often accompanied by invectives and threats.

During our interview, he received a call from the gendarmerie commander, who advised him to watch a video that had gone viral, further adding to the confusion reigning online. We see an old man in a loincloth, who presents himself as the spokesperson for the population of Akradio, reading a press release in front of a small assembly.

“We, the population of Akradio,” he declared solemnly, “recommend with the utmost energy to the spiritualists recognizing having played against the Ivory Coast to take all measures to put things back in their place, by having the Elephants qualify for the round of 16, then win the CAN 2024.” And to name the two sorcerers supposedly favorable to the victory of the Ivorian team, but also the five supposedly hostile. Some Internet users are furious – the village authorities too – but others find the situation hilarious.

If the wizards of Akradio benefit from so much credit, it is because the two stars of Côte d’Ivoire at the CAN are attributed to them. Members of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) and René Diby, the minister of sports at the time, himself from this sub-prefecture, revealed that the selection had performed a ritual in Akradio in 1992 , with sorcerers described by the minister as “psychological trainers”. The scene was also recounted by ex-international Didier Otokoré in his autobiography published at the beginning of January, Les Confidences d’un Elephant. The Ivorian selection then won the final against Ghana after a legendary penalty shootout (11-10).

“Spiritual support” to “win the trophy”

The mystical-sporting idyll did not last, however. An argument then allegedly broke out between Akradio and René Diby, who refused to pay the debts incurred. In retaliation, the wizards would have caused the Elephants to fail at all the following CANs. The belief is tenacious and maintained. The Frenchman Hervé Renard, newly appointed coach of the national team in 2014, was quick to pay his respects to Akradio… before hanging a second star on the Ivory Coast jersey in 2015. Again, on penalties against Ghana.

So the sorcerers of Akradio are alternately reviled or adored, depending on the glories and disappointments of the Elephants. But why, this time, would they want to ruin their own country? Here the story takes a political turn.

Because the Minister Delegate for Sports to the Prime Minister, Adjé Silas Metch, is also from the district where Akradio and Dabou are located, as is Emmanuel Esmel Essis, who holds the portfolio of investment promotion and development of private sector. Rumors attribute to Emmanuel Esmel Essis views on the position of Adjé Silas Metch, going so far as to accuse him of having paid the sorcerers of Akradio to bring about the fall of the Elephants and, at the same time, his disgrace.

As for Adjé Silas Metch, he also seems greatly embarrassed by the affair. “I have always been saddened by this embarrassing publicity made to my paternal village,” he assured Monday in the Ivorian press, “a fabulous publicity which denies any competence to the coach, the players and the federation, but especially to the players who are in the field. » The Minister Delegate conveniently forgets, however, his visit on November 23 to the neighboring village of Bonn, where he had requested “the spiritual support” of the population to “win the trophy” and assured that he knew “the strength of the Adioukrou people “.

With Morocco’s victory over Zambia on Wednesday evening, Côte d’Ivoire was drafted at the last minute for the round of 16 and the jubilant supporters momentarily forgave the wizards of Akradio. While waiting to discover the fate they have in store for the Elephants on Monday January 29 for their meeting with Senegal.