Papiss Cissé and The Hypocritical World of Buffet Religion

Papiss has been rolling the dice with his Newcastle future during the off-season. (Photo: Guardian.)

Papiss has been rolling the dice with his Newcastle future during the off-season. (Photo: Guardian.)

Papiss Cissé is a striker for Newcastle United and he is a muslim. He could also probably apply for an honorary doctorate in hypocrisy if such things existed. Newcastle’s new shirt sponsorship by the pay day loan firm Wonga has conflicted with Cissé’s belief, common under some interpretations of Sharia law, that Muslims must not benefit from lending money. The row has reached a stage where the player left the club’s pre-season tour of Portugal as he continued his anti-Wonga stance, although he’s clearly not anti-wonga per se as he earns a not undismal £40,000 a week.

Cissé has already been accused in some quarters of a cynical attempt to force a move from Newcastle for two reasons: Firstly he had no problem abnegating his religious beliefs before when the club strip was branded with financial services like Northern Rock and Virgin Money (he wore both kits). Secondly all the other muslim players at Newcastle of which there are quite a few, like Hatem Ben Arfa, have no problem wearing the new kit.

Then it was revealed that old Papiss enjoyed doing stuff like this in his spare time:

Papiss, pictured here in the fetching black gilet, fingering some chips.

Papiss, pictured here in the fetching black gilet, fingering some chips.


A spokesperson for Aspers Casino described Cisse as “an occasional visitor” who was “very well behaved and very welcome”, but would not confirm whether or not he placed any bets.

In Islam gambling is an even more grievous sin (or so I’ve been told anyway) than money lending. In the Holy Qur’an it is labelled as “Ithm al-kabir”  or “a very great sin”, a description incidentally only used elsewhere for the practice of drinking (not rape or slavery or murder eh?) It is probably for the best that Cissé hasn’t been papped sporting a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale in the city centre somewhere.

The player’s actions have of course been granted with all the usual vehemence you’d expect. Newcastle city councillor Dipu Ahad had this nugget of wisdom to share with us:

“People will say, ‘look, this is Islam they can pick and choose whatever they want’, and Islam isn’t about picking and choosing”

Ahad is of course utterly wrong. Life and by extension, religion is about picking and choosing things, and the process easily makes hypocrites and liars of us all.  A short quote from Dostoyevsky ought to be sufficient to cool the councillor’s umbrage:

But,  finally, there are things that man is afraid of divulging even to himself and every decent man has quite an accumulation of them.

I’d love to find someone who could honestly say they were not the same as the above. We all do things we shouldn’t sometimes and often these are not things we want to share with anyone else. It is easy (and will no doubt be commonplace) to argue that Newcastle deserve better than such duplicitous treatment from one of their star players. The football cliché of choice would be that he has ‘sullied the shirt’ or whatever. Personally I’d argue that Cissé’s objection to Wonga is not entirely without justification as by all accounts they are a horrid company. Yet it is Cissé who has been damaged most in this affair, simply because he now appears a hypocrite to all the world, however noble his original intentions.

Papiss is no different to the vast majority of religious believers on earth. Only by being a product of Catholic education was I able to spend a great deal of time observing this ‘pick and choose’ phenomenon first hand, and in my time at school contradictions such as the one so aptly displayed by Newcastle’s want-away striker were as common as rain in Wales.

I’ve met many inspirational and intelligent Catholics and to a man and to a woman they were just as flawed as me, except that the flaw was dug even deeper into them by their poisonous subscription to a pointless faith. Some of these people, who professed to love everybody equally, would happily envisage condemning homosexuals to fiery torture sub specie aeternitatis. Religion makes it easy to believe and espouse two completely contradictory notions at the same time. Confront any believer with whatever obvious discrepancy of their faith you can find (there are thousands in Christianity alone) and you will be confronted with some wretched theodicy or breezily unsatisfying explanation. They may as well be as mute as a stone.

This kind of thing is not a good symptom for us humans. Samuel Butler claimed that life is a bit like playing the violin in public and learning the instrument as you go on. If we attempt to be the best we can be without recourse to the blood-flecked codicies and manuals of laughably primitive tribes, hypocrisy won’t disappear, but it will certainly be less pervasive as it is now amongst the parties of God. If Cissé had the good fortune to be an atheist he wouldn’t have been able to undermine his own cause quite so easily.


“I like it here can I stay” – 5 Random things I noticed during Fresher’s Week

1. “The House Always Wins”  

It’s an aphorism for a reason. Casino’s are far from what Hollywood led me to expect from them. There are no suave George Clooney’s and Daniel Craig’s or quivering, red-eyed Alan’s from “The Hangover” pushing around vast mountains of chips. The reality of the Casino is a hotel lobby-ish room filled with dead-eyed, mainly Asian pensioners whiling away what must be hideously empty lives.

What the hell does this have to do with Fresher’s Week you might ask? After many hours of clubbing, inebriation exacted a heavy toll  as I and a few others tumbled into the welcoming arms of Bristols charming Gala casino. Drunkenly claiming my free (the only free thing a casino will ever give you) registration/electronic membership card, which now needs to be destroyed as quickly as possible, we entered a wretched hive of scum, villainy and other similarly confused drunkards. Despite accruing a small fortune (or not), gambling deserves its reputation as a mugs game. I refuse to add more to this section simply because the very thought of the Casino now makes me angry.

A terrible place to do your banking.

2. “Hey Sexy Lady” 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has labelled it a “force for world peace”.  Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and 100 other celebs from the acceptable to the mediocre have shared it with their followers. Maroon 5 had the chutzpah to cover it. People across the world are making an embarrassment of themselves aping the dance in nightclubs. I naively thought I wouldn’t hear it more than 15 times last week. It was played at least 50. Thats right – Gangnam fucking Style – the unlikely soundtrack to Fresher’s Week. As a bedroom dwelling, Morrissey loving ascetic “Gangnam Style” ought to be the kind of vulgar, trashy and (God-forbid) popular smash hit that I love to whine and moan about. But it really really isn’t.

Please be my uncle PSY. Please.

As an almost offensively viral uber hit “Gangnam Style” has all the usual infectious ingredients of a smash pop song. However what makes it so difficult to deride is that it contains an air of irony to often missing from massive songs of recent times. Listen to “We Found Love”. Rihanna is just a barrel of LOL’s isn’t she? Thought not. The over-blown video of ‘Gangnam Style” is an antidote to this kind of po-faced trash and  brilliantly satirises the alienating “more is more” culture of whole swathes of popular music. PSY’s tongue is so firmly in his cheek that is practically burrowing out of his face. According to the artiste himself:

“this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something they’re not”

Such a sentiment isn’t particularly alien during Fresher’s Week.

3. Outsourced

On the first day at Badock room 4136, unit 4a (next door to me) was notable for the complete paucity of life within its boxy, pockmarked confines. This empty room has been the closest university has come so far to the sparkling wordplay, excruciating sexual situations and frankly unrealistic drug use seen in Channel 4’s superlative “Fresh Meat”. The (non) resident of 4316 was our very own Paul Lamb the invisible man.

He is actually quite shit at playing the guitar not going to lie to you.

Except this person wasn’t a Paul Lamb, for a start they actually appeared and secondly they were about as cool as an Indian foreign exchange student  can possibly be.  Reuben is a sort of 17 year old, Indian Bill Clinton (guitar instead of saxophone though) who fulfils most classic Casanova stereotypes. Within 12 hours of arriving Reuben had found a girl to “hold hands” with him. This seemed quite incredible given the utter foulness of the mango chutney Reuben forced upon us, but hey he does have a bit of an “aura”. Anyway, Reuben is so cool that he even has his own sidekick, the diminutive “MS”, very much the Robin to Reuben’s Batman she is believed to spend most of her time doing his laundry and waiting for him to take her to the circus. There is much more that could be written about Reuben’s exploits based on the last week alone but I’ve decided to save it for a rainy day.

4. Fat Bastards

ZaZa Bazaar is the United Kingdoms largest restaurant/trough, potentially seating 1000 customers/greedy ****’s each evening. The latter will gobble 60 chickens and a lorry load of vegetables every day for the foreseeable future. During Fresher’s ZaZa gave away free meals in exchange for the mobile phone numbers of a great deal of Bristol’s student populace. It represents a sort of “industrial moment” in the business of eating. Just as mind-melting mega blockbusters like the inane, misogynistic and frankly dull Transformers 3 pollute the soul, ZaZa represents a calculated assault on one’s stomach. That isn’t to say that its not somewhat enjoyable to eat 10 plates of moderately tasty food from 5 continents or whatever the advertising people try to spin it as. No, its arguably fine at that bovine, unthinking level.

60 chickens a day. 60. Chickens. A day.

Yet amidst all the gut busting, hunger pummelling, belt undoing feasting, yes actual feasting – Henry VII style, it is above all a vacuum of personality that one experiences at ZaZa. As an experience during Fresher’s it just didn’t work. In lieu of the incipient saps of friendship or blooms of conversation inside ZaZa was instead the sound of clattering of plates, the scraping of the sweet and sour sauce bucket for the last inch of cornflower-coated-pork-flavoured gristle. ZaZa left me confused then, at one level eating like a pig from neon lit troughs was quite fun, on another level it represents a horrific development in our entire approach to “going out” for food. With the expectation of very little in the way of conversation/human contact/joy I will go back to re-evaluate* my feelings.

*Gorge myself at the Chinese counter.

5. Epilogue – “coughers”

Coughers. In my lectures the week after Fresher’s. What are you trying to prove? That you drank excessive amounts of alcohol and  fumbled around unsatisfactorily with a member of the opposite sex? Yes? Good for you, good for fucking you but please, please stop coughing in my lectures. You are not even ill are you? Your coughs are so theatrical, so affected that they cannot possibly be real. I’m starting to wonder if there is some kind of cash prize for the biggest cu-, sorry cougher in the lecture hall on any given day. It’s actually driving me on the wall. It’s driving me Liam Neeson. And it only seems to be getting worse.