By the time Kabaza arrived home that evening, he had a worried club coach, a scared aunt and close to a million Kwacha in his bank account. His face was plastered on almost every television station and newspaper that day. Even radio stations could not stop talking about him. Kabaza decided to concentrate on his game, not on who had deposited what amount in the now-famous account. Malizeni Mangochi had started all this hullabaloo, Kabaza thought. Let him handle it.

A fortnight came and went. The hype in the press had died down considerably and they had moved on to other exciting stories. Only Malizeni Mangochi served as a reminder of the whole story, the sports presenter giving people weekly updates on what was now known as Kabaza’s marriage fund. After two weeks, the marriage fund had almost seven million Kwacha. Kabaza himself did not really think about all the money that was meant for him. He chose to ignore it all. It was working, until his uncle called him to the living room one night when everyone else had gone to bed.

“So, how is the hunt for a girl going?”

“It isn’t. I haven’t really been thinking about it,” Kabaza replied, a little surprised. He had never talked about girls with his uncle before.

“Well, perhaps you should. You are not getting any younger, you know.”

“Uncle, where is this coming from?”

His uncle shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Lawrence, you are quite famous now. I am sure you have been getting a lot of attention from different girls. You need to settle down. One can avoid things that way. Scandals involving women, especially.”

“I understand, uncle. You don’t have to worry. We both know I am not that type of person. But I cannot rush into this. Besides, I need to concentrate on my football career. This whole dating thing could be a distraction.”

“Actually, Lawrence, that is also what I am afraid of,” his uncle said. “This could be a long-term distraction if you do not do something about it. Have you heard what they are saying on television?” He did not wait for a reply since Kabaza’s puzzled expression clearly showed that his nephew did not have a clue.

“You have the financially capability to go on dates with girls anywhere you want now. Heck, people even want to see you get married. All I am saying is, if you do not do something now, things might get out of hand. Just think about it, okay?”

Kabaza’s mind was working overtime that night. I did not ask for this, he thought. This is all Malizeni Mangochi’s fault. Besides, where and how do people expect me to find a girl? I’m usually busy with practice. And, it is not like good girls are a dime a dozen. All these things only made Kabaza more frustrated. He could not afford to think about it. He had a football match the following day and he needed his sleep. Sleep eventually came, albeit after a long period of tossing and turning.

It was one of the most exciting matches in the football Super League. Everyone always looked forward to the match between Lilongwe Bullets and Bankers United, both Lilongwe-based sides. Lilongwe Bullets’ fan base had increased considerably, thanks to Kabaza.

“Focus on the match, Lawrence,” coach Shakes Banda spoke to Kabaza right before he walked onto the pitch. “That is what we are here for. Nothing else.”

“Yes, coach,” answered Kabaza, all the while wondering why his coach had said that. The coach’s last words were usually in the dressing room, not whilst in the tunnel.

You could not miss it. It did not matter which side of the stadium you were sitting on. And Kabaza, last player to come out for his team, did not miss it either. It was written in large letters that could be seen for miles. Clearly, some Bankers United fans had spent many hours on the banner. Written in vernacular, it read, “Kufunsira samatha, kumenya mpira samathanso,” which literally meant, “He does not know how to ask a girl out, he cannot play football, either.”

Kabaza tried to concentrate, but the banner had its intended effect. And it was not only that which got to him. It was the chants that really did it. The Bankers United supporters continued to taunt him with songs talking about how it is not easy being a bachelor. And when Kabaza missed a penalty during the match, it only goaded them on.

The match ended in a one-all draw but the atmosphere in the dressing room was quite tense. It felt like a loss. Nobody in the dressing room directly blamed Kabaza for the result but everybody admitted that the taunts and jeers had been quite overwhelming.

“Look, man, maybe you should just get a girl,” Whirlwind spoke to Kabaza when they were alone. “Or, at least, just go on a few dates. Maybe these people will shut up and then things will get back to normal.”

***

Tell us: Why do you think Kabaza hasn’t asked anyone out yet?