The use of muti in South African soccer is as old as the game itself.

Few people will openly admit to its use - or potency - perhaps for fear of being described as charlatans or even create a wide arc from friends and neighbours.

But it is an open secret that it is common practice in our football.

Gavin Lane, a respected defender who grew up in conservative Boksburg and carved his career with Giant Blackpool and later Orlando Pirates, admitted that he had taken part in muti rituals in the past.

"In 1995, when I was still at Pirates and we played in the African Champions Cup against BCC Lions in Nigeria," recalled Lane, "Helman Mkhalele ran riot along the wing and they didn't have an answer to his jinking runs.

"Then something strange, yet funny, happened. One of the opposition players sprinkled something at him in an off-the-ball incident.

"It appeared innocuous at the time but Helman started complaining of itchiness and it affected his performance badly."

"Muti is an age-old tradition and is widely used in Africa. There are stories of strange stuff in dressing-rooms. I've also taken part in jumping into baths full of strange stuff. Lots of clubs do it, even at AmaZulu - we do it sometimes.

"I also remember an incident when I was playing for Blackpool. I damaged my ankle badly and one of the officials took me to a sangoma in Soweto. It was a wet, cold and overcast Sunday morning and the woman sangoma instructed the official to bring me back on Wednesday when the weather was expected to be sunny.

"When we arrived on the appointed day, the official purchased new razor blades which he produced. The sangoma made about 10 or 15 incisions on both sides of the ankle - nothing major - just small cuts where the swelling was.

"Then she produced a tennis ball split in half and kind of sucked the blood out of the wounds.

"And, believe me, thick, black bloodclots oozed from the cuts. When we left the place, you could have knocked me down with a feather .... the pain was gone."

Lane recalled another similar incident when he was playing for Pirates.

Four days before their African Champions Cup semifinal against Express from Uganda, Lane injured his ankle against Bush Bucks.

Again, it meant another trip into the heart of Soweto. And although then coach Joe Frickleton had virtually ruled him out of the Express game, they took him to another part of Soweto, to yet another sangoma.

"He also cut my ankle, then placed my foot into lukewarm water. He produced what looked like a wild cactus flower, heated it on the stove and gently rubbed it around the swollen ankle," recalls Lane.

Again, Lane played that weekend, much to Frickleton's amazement.