Witch doctors have a field day

Eight witch doctors from across the continent called on the spirits to bring luck to the dozen teams in the Copa America yesterday, a day before the South American tournament opener.

Dressed in a multi-coloured poncho,

rainbow-striped pants and a felt fedora, lead shaman Juan Osco blew mouthfuls of scented cane liquor and threw petals on a soccer ball bearing the teams’ crests.

“With flowers, good perfumes and good wishes we are asking the protective gods that no misfortune befall any player and that above all there are good matches,” intoned Osco, Peru’s self-proclaimed “Shaman of the Andes.”

The Copa America, held in seven cities across Peru until 25 July, brings together Mexico, Costa Rica and 10 South American squads.

Osco and his comrades — each wearing variations of a similar outfit — chanted, rattled gourds and waved skulls, dolls and even a shrunken head from an Amazon tribe during the ceremony in front of Lima’s Nacional Stadium.

While Lima is a modern city, rural customs such as shamanic rituals have been brought to the capital by millions of Andean and Amazon Indians, who migrated from the impoverished provinces.