A few days ago, Papiss Cisse apparently told Newcastle United not only that he wished to be one of the highest paid players at the club, but that he would also not wear next year’s kit with new sponsor Wonga.
Cisse, a practising Muslim, cited Sharia law that states one must not benefit from lending money to others. Wonga is an online lending company headquartered in London.
The Northumbria police (Newcastle’s police force) have now gotten involved after some fans responded angrily on Cisse’s Facebook page with racial abuse. “We have been made aware of abusive comments made on Facebook,” said Northumbria Chief Supt Dianne Winship. “Northumbria Police take all reports of abuse very seriously and enquiries are being conducted.”
The irony of the situation is that the new sponsorship deal with Wonga will bring in significantly more money than their previous deal with Virgin Money. That extra money could be used to make improvements to the squad – for example, to improve Cisse’s contract.
The Senegalese international arrived at the club in the January 2012 transfer window and signed a 5-1/2 year deal.
There is a precedent on a situation like this. Islamic striker Frederic Kanoute was allowed to wear an unbranded shirt after he refused to wear the logo for the 888.com gambling website on religious grounds when he played for Spanish side Seville. However, the Malian agreed to wear the shirt when the company agreed to remove him from any and all publicity campaigns.
Teammates Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote are both practicing Muslims as well, but neither have come forward yet to voice any displeasure to the kit deal with Wonga.
The Senegalese striker scored 13 goals in 43 appearances last season in all competitions for Newcastle, but his scoring rate improved greatly when Demba Ba was sold in January.