OFF THE POST: Aussies qualified thanks to settled witch doctor debt?

Australia's qualification for the 2006 World Cup came thanks to television presenter and filmmaker John Safran ending a 32-year-old curse, according to Safran.

Safran, often called the Down Under's Michael Moore, discovered that Australia had an outstanding debt to a Mozambique witch doctor.

In 1969, Australia faced Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in a World Cup qualifying playoff in Mozambique and the Aussie players accepted a witch doctor's offer to curse the Rhodesians by planting bones near the goalposts. Australia won but its amateur players couldn't afford the with doctor's $1,500 fee. It lost its next game, before which three players got sick.

Australia did qualify for the 1974 World Cup, but Safran says the unpaid witch doctor placed a curse on the Socceroos that resulted in the several heart-breaking failures that followed.

''I did it. I reversed the curse,'' Safran told SBS television. ''I found a witch doctor who said he could channel the original dead witchdoctor who cursed the team, so we went to the pitch where Australia played and he smeared chicken blood all over me.''

Australia then beat Uruguay in the Oceania-South America playoff series and qualified for its first World Cup in 32 years.

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