It was his cousin Akuzike who woke him up that morning. “You are on TV again! Quick! Come see!”
Kabaza put on a pair of jeans and followed his cousin, who was already running back to the living room. His head was still a little groggy as he sat down just as his face disappeared from the television screen. A woman came on in his place.
“The boy is absolutely marvellous. I would marry him myself but I am too old. However, he really needs to settle down and I will gladly find a girl for him.”
Kabaza’s family roared with laughter. His uncle was about to say something when another person came on, a man this time.
“Kabaza is definitely ahead of his class. He was outstanding in the last game, as always. And I understand that a talented boy like him needs to settle down. So he should find a girl he likes. And, on the financial side, I pledge twenty thousand Kwacha.”
Kabaza’s jaw dropped open. No one in the house spoke for a few seconds, before Aku managed to.
“Kabaza, did that man just…?”
“Shhh!” Aku was quickly silenced as several more people spoke on television, openly making cash pledges. Then at last, the sports news anchor appeared.
“Well, there you have it. It seems Lawrence “Kabaza” Mofolo has won the hearts of many. So many, in fact, that it seems he will not have difficulties financially in his quest to find a life partner off the field. All we can say is good luck, Kabaza.”
Kabaza’s phone kept ringing that day. Teammates, friends and relatives kept calling, either to mock him or congratulate him. He did not have to go for his club’s football training session that day and he was thankful for that. He stayed inside their grass-fenced compound all day, hoping that things will have quietened down by the next morning.
It seemed, however, that they had not. He left for training, leaving his uncle mumbling obscenities at the power company since they had a blackout that morning, and was waiting to board a bus when three young ladies approached him.
“Hi! My name is Mada,” spoke one of them excitedly. “We are very big fans of yours, my friends and I. Here is my number. We should get together sometime.” A piece of paper was shoved into Kabaza’s hands and then, as quickly as they had come, the girls left. It was only after he had boarded a minibus that he remembered that the girl had not introduced her friends. Whether or not that was by design Kabaza had no idea.
The day kept getting even more interesting for Kabaza. Two ladies in the bus offered to pay for his fare. Kabaza was saved by the conductor, who said that he could ride for free, being a national hero and all. And when he finally made it to the training ground, things got worse. Three reporters, apparently waiting for him at the gate, rushed towards him.
“Kabaza, what is your comment on the recent developments?”
“Will the fame and fortune affect your performance on the field in any way?”
“What exactly do you plan to do with all the money? Will you use it for its intended purpose?”
All the money? Kabaza was confused. He said nothing, simply walking past the reporters, through the gates and straight to the dressing room. All the attention immediately turned to him.
“Well, if it isn’t the lovelorn soccer star!”
“Hey, Lawrence, I have a sister who would be perfect for you! She comes with a hefty bride price but we know you can afford it!”
“You are buying all the drinks after this weekend’s game, my friend!”
Even his best friend joined in. “Man, you are a genius! Not only will we get a lot of girls but also lots of cash in the process!” Max “Whirlwind” Kalinde emphasized the word “we” as he spoke.
Kabaza was about to ask Whirlwind what he was talking about when his club coach beckoned him.
“Lawrence, I am very happy for you and your success. You know that. But I must say that I am a bit worried. All this might distract your fellow players as well as yourself. They are already talking about all the money and extra attention they will get as your friends. That is not what we go on the field to do,” said Shakes Banda, matter-of-factly.
“I’m sorry, boss, but I really do not know what is going on.”
“You don’t? It is on every radio and television station!” Whirlwind spoke loudly, clearly eavesdropping. The coach glared at him before turning to Kabaza again.
“That reporter friend of yours, the one on whose show you were. He heard what the people said on television yesterday. He has set up a special account to help you financially and help you find a girl.”
It took a few seconds for Kabaza to process what his coach had just said. Then he started laughing. “Coach, surely this is a joke. No one can fall for Malizeni Mangochi’s publicity stunts!”
“It seems people are,” answered Shakes, slightly annoyed by Kabaza’s laughing fit. “It has only been about two hours but that account has three hundred thousand Kwacha.”
Kabaza immediately stopped laughing. The coach was about to go on when Kabaza’s phone rang. It was his aunt.
“Lawrence, there have been a few people here to see you. I have actually locked myself in the house now and I am not answering when they knock.”
“They are here too, auntie. They tried to interview me.” Kabaza tried to reassure his aunt. “They will go away, eventually. Just wait them out.”
“These weren’t reporters, Lawrence. They were your fans. They said they couldn’t manage to go to banks so they came here.” She paused. “I have at least fifty thousand Kwacha meant for you in the house and I am afraid of getting robbed. What should I do?”
Tell us: What should Kabaza do with the money? What would you do?