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Senegalese Will Try to Put a Spell on Turks

June 21, 2002|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEOUL — After taking on, and silencing, 45,000 screaming Japanese fans in the second round, Turkey's spoiler of a World Cup team braces for an altogether different challenge in Saturday's quarterfinal against Senegal.

Beware the juju men?

The theory has been advanced that World Cup rookie Senegal has advanced this far, past France and Denmark into the final eight, due largely to the assist the Teranga Lions have received from the juju men, or witch doctors, back home.

For the record, Senegal's coach, Bruno Metsu, says he doesn't believe in the power of juju--and doesn't believe his players do either.

"Maybe two or three are susceptible to that kind of thing," Metsu told reporters in Osaka this week, "but the rest just treat it as a joke."

Several of Senegal's players, such as Sylvain Ndiaye and Habib Beye, were born and raised in France.

"Imagine their reaction," Senegal captain Aliou Cisse said, "if we killed a chicken in the dressing room before the match."

Besides, Metsu pointed out, if juju really put a spell on teams playing Senegal, "We'd have won the African Nations Cup and the World Cup ages ago."

Saturday in Osaka, Senegal tries to go where no other African nation has gone--to the semifinals of the World Cup. With its 2-1 sudden-death victory over Sweden in the second round, Senegal joined Cameroon in 1990 as the only African teams to reach the quarterfinals.

Turkey, which ruined co-host Japan's "Blue Heaven" party with its 1-0 second-round victory in Miyagi, stands in Senegal's path. Turkey too is new to such rarified turf; the Turks' only other World Cup appearance was in 1954.

The playing styles are as dramatic as they come. Senegal has charmed neutral fans around the world with its fast-breaking, free-flowing form of soccer. Turkey, meanwhile, conspires to drain the life from a match and an opponent, as Japan bitterly discovered.

Consequently, many regard Senegal a favorite in the match, a role the Senegalese would rather not play.

"We have always been outsiders, and that's how we want to remain," goalkeeper Tony Sylva said. "We don't consider ourselves favorites. We aren't going to change. Above all, we respect Turkey."

Senegal striker El Hadji Diouf said the goal is to "prolong the adventure and do something an African country has never done before--reach the semifinals."

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