VESHADD was already becoming restless, where he sat at the hotel swimming pool.
He was dazed by his reality. He was trying to make sense of everything that’d happened since midnight.
The accomplished footballer couldn’t bring himself to think about the crime incident.
All he could dare to think about was how he’d called Coach Alhi hours before dawn and had confided in him.
He also remembered his coach’s last words before he’d left him then.
‘Pull yourself together and wait for me, Vee,’ Alhi had said. ‘Don’t do anything until I return. Don’t tell anybody else about this. I’ll be back soon.’
And Coach Alhi had thereafter called on their medical team to attend to the victim who was lying in the pool of her own blood. In VeShadd’s hotel suite.
By now, VeShadd was becoming impatient where he sat at the poolside. He wasn’t sure how the national coach would handle the situation.
Billows of doubts began to diffuse through his thoughts.
Could Coach Alhi have gone to report me to the police?
No… if he wanted to, he wouldn’t tell the team’s doctors to treat the girl first.
But what can he be planning? Can I really trust Coach in all these…?
But do I even have an option now? Oh… gosh!
VeShadd sunk his head in-between his laps. The future had never seemed so blurry.
Ever since the twenty-year-old became a world renowned footballer, he’d always been sure of tomorrow; of his next steps in life.
But as of now, VeShadd wasn’t even sure he’d be able to see the end of today.
Professor Sayid couldn’t contain the shock he’d just received from what the national coach had just related to him.
It was the ace of Quitalia’s football team that was in the centre of a scandal that could shatter just everyone in a twinkle of an eye.
Just if the big deal got to leak somehow.
The minister of sports stood up and went to the window to take in a rush of fresh air. He leaned his forehead against his arm rested over the broad window frame.
The old man had bet everything on the national team. He’d even made an early visit to the president to court more favours on behalf of the team.
And here was everything about to crumble down before his very eyes. Just because of one silly boy’s mistake.
Sayid was devastated.
‘The president mustn’t hear of this incidence,’ he murmured and started pacing about the large office room; his head bowed in thought.
He went on. ‘The World Cup Sports Committee mustn’t know about this; otherwise we’re out.’
The old man halted in his steps and turned around to face Coach Alhi in a jiffy.
‘Can we win the world cup without VeShadd at all?’ he asked.
The question was meant to be a rhetorical one anyway. For Professor Sayid himself knew that the Quitalian Desert Camels wouldn’t go any far without Tai Veshadd.
VeShadd was the gallons of fluid that moved Quitalia’s skillfully resilient beasts on the pitch.
Rhetorical as the sports minister’s question was, Alhi answered with the obvious regardless.
‘We don’t have the chance, sir,’ the coach replied in a weak voice; ‘he’s our ace.’
Sayid was frustrated.
‘Why must one silly boy ruin my career?’ he lamented. ‘I’ve managed all sorts of sportsmen, and they never gave me any problem. Not even drug related problem!
‘Even boxers never gave me any problem. No records of street fights, violence or even women abuse. They were just simple sportsmen. Really good gentlemen!
‘What I don’t understand is why someone who is meant to keep or kick a rolling ball, will try to ruin my career because he thinks it’s better he starts keeping and kicking a girl!’
Alhi was only quiet, as he listened to the minister moan.
The team’s coach reasoned that there was really no time to lament. They had to seek for a fast way out.
And the only solution Alhi could think of was to instantly cover up the incident before the media caught up on it.
For it was obvious they couldn’t afford to lose VeShadd in the team.
Alhi decided to face it.
He spoke up. ‘Sir, I think we will have to cover up the incidence – and as fast as possible!’
He went on immediately. ‘We’ve got a lot to lose if this gets out. We can’t afford to lose VeShadd. It’s not even an option, sir.’
The sports minister stood with arms akimbo; and he genuflected with a hand once in a while as he replied just as soon.
‘Of course,’ he quipped.
‘I know we have to cover it up, Alhi. But it’s the World Cup we’re talking here! We have the whole world watching us. And this Vee is constantly in the international spotlight, you know.
‘We can only cover up our own local affairs. But we can’t ever get to cover things up when the whole world is here staring at us!’
The minister dropped his hands; giving up defeated.
He finished. ‘Take it or leave it – we can’t cover this up; the whole world is keenly watching!’
The two men heaved a deep, worried sigh.
The older man picked up again, and with some frustration in his weary voice.
‘If it were to be an academy or school setting, maybe the parents of this Vee boy would’ve been summoned to come and take care of him.
‘But this silly boy is an adult, for crying out loud. And, besides, the issue is far more serious than calling up a grown up kid’s parents.’
Alhi blurted with a sudden start, jumping to his feet at once. ‘Yeah… parents, sir!’
Sayid turned around, squinting his eyes as he curiously observed the excited chief coach.
‘Er… what… what are you meaning to say, Alhi?’ he queried.
Alhi drew close to the older man and excitedly held his hand as he drew him to a two seater sofa. ‘Let’s seat first, sir,’ he breathed; his eyes bright and elated.
Professor Sayid looked at the forty-two-year-old chief coach with both surprise and curiosity, as he followed behind him to the settee.
The two men sat, with Sayid leaning towards the Quitalian national team’s coach with interest.
Sayid was the first to speak just as soon as the two men were seated. ‘So, go on, Alhi… I think you have something to say… an idea, right?’
Alhi nodded firmly.
‘Sir, the whole world is currently in Quitalia now for the World Cup and so is Vee’s backbone, the World Union.
‘Vee is the major ambassador for UNICEF and WHO – under the broad canopy of the World Union. The kid’s also the main ambassador for the prestigious Teen Vogue.
‘The boy’s got really big names behind him, sir. And he’s the world’s best footballer on record!’
Tai VeShadd’s backbone, about which Alhi was talking, was the conglomerate of the world’s most powerful organisations.
Named, the United Nations’ International Organisations Network.
Also called the World Union – owing to its strategic acronym.
Professor Sayid was irritated already. He leaned back; gesturing broadly as he spilled out his next words.
‘Alhi, you’re telling me this silly boy’s profile! What has all these got to do with the issue on ground, huh? Do I care to know how you guys worship this stupid kid?!’
Alhi decided to cut to the chase at once. ‘Sir, the point is, if VeShadd loses face, these big organisations lose face too…’
The chief coach leaned a little forward.
‘In other words, sir, the World Union don’t have any choice than to help us cover up this big stuff!’
Sayid absorbed everything at once and it made absolute sense.
He nodded with a sigh of relief.
‘Now we’re talking!’ he breathed.
The sports minister and the national coach set out at once.
To have an emergency meeting with the executive delegate of the World Union for the World Cup. At their station further down along the capital Mailora’s beltway.
In the meanwhile – and at the almost empty ministry of sports complex where Coach Alhi and Professor Sayid had had the emergency talk – an official Mr Kemwu had stayed up the whole night, working and then loitering about.
He’d seen the national coach wait outside the office complex in the cold of early dawn.
He also eavesdropped on him calling on phone earlier to say there was a serious problem and that he’d wait until the sports minister arrived.
The middle aged man also marked how hurriedly the sports minister arrived and the two had a brief talk before hurrying out somewhere again.
The curious man had tried to make out something from eavesdropping closer by. But the winds were absolutely unfavourable that cold early hours of dawn.
As soon as Professor Sayid and Coach Alhi zoomed off in the sports minister’s jeep, the middle aged gossiper picked up his mobile and dialled the chief of a top news media company.
‘I’ve got a very hot news tip for you,’ Kemwu whispered when the listener picked up and yawned.
‘But you’ve got to dig up about it yourself ’cause I don’t really know what it’s really about,’ he said in a whisper.
The listener grunted at the other end.
‘But this I can tell you for certain: it is more of a big scandal stuff among the Desert Camels at the Planetario Hotels – I can bet my life on that!
‘I’m calling from the sports ministry now – for you to know this is valid!’
The listener came awake at once. ‘Oh man! You mean…!’
Kemwu laughed. ‘Hey, not so fast! Today’s tip isn’t the normal deal. Sports scandal during the World Cup is dead expensive, man! Let’s talk price first, c’mon!’
Kemwu was able to bargain a big price for his tip before he ended the call.
But he wasn’t satisfied, for that worth of story. He decided to tip as many news media as he possibly could, while placing a huge price on the tip.
He spent the whole rest of the time before daybreak wide awake, calling up several many news media and entering into an agreement on payment with them.
He wasn’t going to sell that possibly big scandal for just one buyer. He was out to make a fortune out of sports himself.
But Kemwu never knew about the World Union.
He never knew the reporters weren’t going to find a single thing by morning.
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