His eyes opened to the same scene. The four poster bed gilded with goldleaf. The bedroom French windows that open out onto the extravagant swimming pool. His beautiful wife who was contently sleeping next to him.
The same thing, repeatedly, day after day. Slowly suffocating him.
He rose from his plush surroundings silently, only a sigh breaking the tranquility. He encased himself in the giant shower and let the roaring water attempt to wash away the disenchantment he felt. After what seemed like five minutes but what was actually an hour, he slid open the ornate doors and dragged himself to his cavernous closet, which housed a fantastic collection of the finest clothes. A layman may have been aghast at the sheer choice on show, but Yaya merely picked what was directly meeting his gaze, this time a pair of linen trousers and a neutral coloured shirt. Slipping on a pair of loafers made with leather so soft they would be coveted by ninjas for more covert operations, he made his way to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Today would be a big day.
As he slouched through the myriad of hallways on his way to the kitchen which joined onto a huge living room, he didn’t notice how quiet the house was. It was 7am, normally a hive of activity when kids are present. No arguments, no laughing, not even the hum of the expensive coffee maker. Yaya didn’t notice though. Shrouded in a miasma of worry and unhappiness, his thought processes were blinding him to his present surroundings.
He turned the corner which covered the view to the open plan kitchen and living room……..
Yaya was shook from his reverie. Every single person in his life had gathered into his house and were now directly in front of him.
His family. His extended family who resided in Abidjan. His teammates at Manchester City. The backroom staff. Even Sheikh Mansour was here, flanked by his entourage. In one of the hired men’s grasp was a blue and white birthday cake with sparklers firing their colourful emissions from the top of the confection.
Yaya didn’t utter a word. Instead, his children rushed forward and grabbed him tightly, wishing him a happy birthday and giving him their handmade cards, before his wife sauntered over, kissed him and promised him his present later that evening. She gathered the kids and they left the building for the school run.
Still, no emotion from Yaya. He looked at the cards created by his children. Instead of evoking powerful feelings of love and warmth, they just reminded him of what he must do.
He sat down at the long dining table and the group of well wishers followed.
Friends and family came to him, one by one, all giving him their blessings and expensive gifts. He thanked them soullessly. Needless garlands were all they were.
The Sheikh then stepped forward, prompting his own personal army to also step forward. The cake was now on the table, the sparklers had expired and were now as dull as Yaya’s excitement levels.
The Sheikh spoke.
” Yaya, you have been a true giant for our team. You have scored goals, you have inspired. You deserve only the very best. To this end, I bring you a gift.”
He clapped his hands together decisively a single time. The curtains were swished open which covered the view to the Toure family’s garden, which could only be described as a small village. All the land as far as your eyes could take you belonged to Yaya and his wife. Scattered on the land were extravagant playground items, quad bikes, even children’s playhouses which were to the scale of an actual family home. In the centre of this was a trailer.
Sitting on the trailer, was a fifty foot yacht.
Gasps of adulation and slight jealousy rang through the group who had come to the house to greet Yaya. The man himself simply thanked the Sheikh without any filigree or outward sign of joy.
It was time to say what he had to say. He needed to purge.
” Everyone, thank you for your wishes and gifts. You all recognise how hard my life is and how hard I work, so these offerings are deserved. ”
His teammates exchanged raised eyebrows and tired looks. Always the same mantra from the man who was capable of ripping open teams with a burst of his rangy legs.
Yaya spoke again, now in full flow.
” All of this though, the house, the boat, the huge amount of money I earn, is nothing without recognition. Why do I get singled out when I have a bad game? I’ve achieved nearly everything, how can the press and the footballing critics point at anything negative? I’m a pariah in this sport. Therefore, I am quitting the sport with immediate effect. ”
Shock swarmed around the faces that looked upon him. Murmurs inflicted with high notes were the soundtrack to his statement. The Sheikh stormed out of the house, his entourage followed him in single file in a comically hurried fashion.
Yaya spoke again, his tone slightly louder to make sure all heard.
” I’m going to be a professional mime artist……”
Everyone in the crowd froze. Their eyes were met with the sight of a tall African man attempting to get out of an invisible box.
He broke off from his endeavours to escape the transparent box to speak a final time.
” It is a noble art and I will be judged solely on my artistry. I’ve been honing my technique for a while now and my family are aware of my decision. I know you will all support me and agree it is the right choice….”
The crowd all began to leave the house, amazed at how blinkered one of the best Premiership players had become. They didn’t utter a word. As they all slinked out, Yaya had donned his black leotard and was now riding a horse that couldn’t be seen.
He smiled. He felt free. It would be a good day.