Holding a dead fish in one hand and flickering candle in the other, Daddy Guarantã blows smoke over a picture of Wayne Rooney – then calls upon the spirits to expel the negative shadows from the England striker’s heart.
Slumping to his knees he begins to wail: “Oxalá, help him Oxalá… Roooooney, help him score goals.”
In a dark, incense-filled room crammed with saints, statues and pots of salt to ward off evil, I’m in the midst of a voodoo ritual which, I’m assured, will help England win this year’s World Cup.
That’s a bit far-fetched even for the most optimistic England fan – but this guy actually has form.
Daddy Guarantã – real name Roberto Barros – is Brazilian football’s most revered witch doctor, believed by many to possess the power to swing games, defeat opponents and even strike down players.
Now 84, he claims his potions and spells have won countless matches, titles, and even one World Cup for Brazil.
Employed by some of Brazil’s biggest clubs, fans of São Paulo side Corinthians credit him with ending a 21-year trophy drought – they won the São Paulo cup two years running as soon as he arrived.
He did the same for an unknown amateur side, Guarani, who went from obscurity to Brazilian champions a year after employing Daddy Guarantã as their official witch doctor in 1977.
And after being invited to perform voodoo rituals for the national side in 2002, Brazil lifted the World Cup a record fifth time the same year.
We traced Mr Guarantã, known as Daddy to his followers, to his home in São Paulo – where England play Uruguay on June 18.
And, despite retiring from football, the sorcerer from Afro-Brazilian religion Umbanda agreed to work his magic one last time – on Roy Hodgson’s England.
“I already know why you’re here,” he says. “Your team is full of negativity. Your countrymen have no faith. Without faith you cannot burn the edges of negativity. The spirits have already told me that.”
He’s probably right – so is turning England into World Cup winners a bit of a tall order, even for him?
“Oh no, not for me. There are lots of things I can do. Don’t worry about the group stages, you’ll get through those easily. Italy and Uruguay are in a far worse place spiritually than England.
“But if you want to go further, and if you want to win the penalty shoot outs, you’re going to need me.”
Daddy lights up a cigarette and begins to puff. He’s not a smoker but, he explains, an “Exu” – an entity from the spirit world who likes to smoke – has just entered his body.
He adds: “The spirit is speaking to me. You know England’s biggest problem? They’re too polite, they have no passion.
“They need to take control, not just of the ball, but of everything else – nature, the whole universe.”
Erm, good advice, but how?
He describes a ritual called Exu do Vento in which each player picks a blade of grass from the pitch and throws it to the wind before a game.
“From that moment on, the wind will be on your side, like the 12th player on the pitch,” he says.
Another way is for the squad to pass through the opponents’ dressing room before going to their own. He explains: “That way they take spiritual control of the other players. The greatest force of all, however, is the sea.
“Ritual washing in the sea removes all negativity. Your coach, Roy, must do this every day. He will see the difference in his players.”
Daddy adds Roy can also nullify any black magic cast on his team – by spreading three 70kg bags of salt around the centre circle just before kick-off.
And how to deal with the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?
“I never use black magic,” he replies. “But there are things you can do. Once, when a player called Rivilinho was causing problems, I performed a ritual asking the spirits to do something. He got an excruciating stomach pain and had to leave the pitch. That would be a good way to deal with Messi.”
I mention our own best player, Rooney, is going through a dry spell and often disappoints on the international stage.
Daddy suddenly goes quiet and puts his hands to his head: “Wait, the Exu is telling me something… has Rooney ever been involved with an older woman?”
“Because if he did, that’s where his problems started. She was a ‘Pomba Gira’, a devilish female spirit sent to haunt him. She passed all her negativity to him.
“But it’s easy to sort out. He needs to mix five litres of water with 1kg of rock salt and throw it over himself while shouting ‘help me, Oxalá’. It will clean him of negativity and free his soul.”
England most need positivity when it comes to penalties – so how can we finally rid ourselves of the curse of the shoot out?
Daddy says: “Fans need to give the players strength by meditating on minerals or vegetables. Tell them to keep strength-giving vegetables at home, like spinach and broccoli.
“When they need to pass on strength, like at the penalties, they must get the vegetables and meditate on them.
“They should make a triangle with their fingers on their foreheads – it will give the penalty taker a third, subconscious eye.”
I promise to pass on the advice, then suddenly Daddy Guarantã slumps forward in his seat, his eyes rolling behind his sockets.
“Illuminate your team, illuminate your coach, illuminate Gerrard,” he wails. “Light 11 white candles for seven days. Every England fan should do this to illuminate the Lions and give them the victory.”
“If the spirits have their way, it will be England against Brazil.”
But can he ritually aid the team? The lights dim and, kneeling at his altar, Daddy Guarantã begins to call down the spirit god Oxalá.
Holding a dead fish skeleton and lit candle, he sings and wails as he anoints the squad by blowing smoke over their pictures.
“Go, weakness and insecurity, fly away forever,” he sings. He spends most time with Rooney, pulling out the negativity from his heart.
Waving a “miracle” leather hat over the striker he sings, “Rooney, aaayyeeee, aaayyeee, you are the playmaker, the goalscorer… help him score goals, Oxalá.”
Ten minutes later, it’s all over. Daddy Guarantã looks exhausted but says: “It’s all done. Everything will be OK. England will get to the World Cup final, and then… who knows?”
Now that’s some faith.