Chapter 353 To Lyon, FranceZachary immediately dialed Kristin's number after ending the call with Emily. She picked up almost instantly, and he quickly told her about the contents of the article and the club's request for him to post a statement discrediting it.
"I had already seen the article," Kristin said with a tinge of resignation in her voice after hearing him out. "I was just about to get in touch with the club's public relations office to organize a way forward to solve the whole issue. But I guess you beat me to the task."
"Then, that makes things easier," Zachary said. "I'll leave everything in your hands since you already know about the article. But first things first, start with making an official post discrediting the content of the article on my behalf. Make it simple, and don't go into details. A brief statement along the lines of I still enjoy a good relationship with the club management might work wonders."
"Don't worry," Kristin replied from the other end of the line. "I know what to do. I'll pen down an appropriate response to the article right away. Then, I'll even contact Emily and have her verify the statement before posting it on your social media accounts."
"Thanks a lot, Kristin," Zachary replied. "I have to return to training now. So, let me say goodbye for now. If you need any info from me, don't hesitate to call my number."
"Okay. But there's one more thing I wish to ask before you hang up, Zachary."
"Go ahead," Zachary said. "I'm all ears."
"Zachary!" Kristin said after a moment. "Could you be thinking about transferring out of Rosenborg soon? As your publicity secretary, I'm just asking to understand your future plans."
Zachary switched the phone to his other ear before saying, "I feel ready to take the next step towards progressing my football career. So, if there's a suitable offer, I'll consider switching to a team in one of the big leagues during the upcoming transfer window."
"I see," Kristin said. "So, there's a high possibility that you'll be moving out of Norway between June 12th and September 1st."
"That's correct," Zachary replied. "If all goes as planned, I will move immediately after the World Cup. But there's no need for the press or the public to know that I'm switching teams. So, you definitely cannot tell another person about this. Otherwise, the whole issue might create a publicity mess that could distract me from football."
"Don't worry," Kristin assured. "I know what's at stake and will definitely not tell any other person about your plans. I was only asking because I also need to start making some preparations if I'm to continue working as your publicity secretary when you move away from Trondheim."
"You wish to continue working as my publicity secretary?"
"Definitely," Kristin was quick to reply.
"Don't you still have to attend university?"
"I'll just transfer to another university," Kristin said. "Zachary! I wish to follow you wherever you go. If you still want me to remain working as your publicity secretary, I won't stay back."
"Of course, you can remain as my publicity secretary," Zachary said. "I was just worried that you might miss out on your university education because of the job. Your grandpa might take my head if he knows that I distracted you from your studies."
Kristin chuckled. "You don't have to worry. I'll transfer to a new university in the new city. Moreover, don't forget that very few people get opportunities to work for highly-skilled athletes who are shooting to fame. So, if I give up such a job, I might as well go and bang my head on the wall."
Zachary chuckled, switching the phone to his other ear. "You can continue working as my publicity secretary for as long as you like. I'll talk to Emily and have her renew your contract so that you can be more assured of your future."
"Thanks a lot," Kristin replied. "That puts my heart at ease."
"Excellent," Zachary said. "I have to return to training now. But remember to handle the issue of the article as soon as possible. I already promised the coach that I would release the statement before the end of the day."
"Sure, I'll get to the task right away," Kristin said. "Enjoy your training and have a good day."
"Thanks, and have a good day too," Zachary said before ending the call. He immediately breathed a sigh of relief and returned to his training.
The following three days passed by quickly as he got busy. Aside from attending the team session to prepare for the Europa League game against Lyon, he spent his spare time training alone. He would either be in the gym or on the road jogging with the intent to condition himself early in the morning before sunrise. Then, in the evenings after the team sessions, he would practice his set-piece and dribbling skills before ending his day with a yoga session. He even spent some quality time with Camilla, who was as understanding and considerate as ever concerning his hectic schedule.
Eventually, Wednesday, April 2nd arrived, and Coach Johansen named the team facing off against Lyon that morning. Later in the afternoon, the players who'd made the coach's squad boarded a KLM airlines flight — and off they went and soared into the skies, heading off towards the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to play their first leg game of the Europa League's quarter-finals.
The plane touched down at the Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport's runway five and a half hours later when the sun had long sunk beneath the horizon in the west. The players quickly followed the rest of the passengers out of the plane and headed toward the arrivals terminal. Before long, they collected their luggage and started making their way toward the airport's exit under the guidance of a UEFA guide.
But before they could make it out of the hallways of the airport, a group of fans and reporters interrupted them. Most of the fans were in Rosenborg's black and white jerseys, while the reporters were armed with microphones and large cameras.
"Zachary! An autograph."
"Zachary! We traveled all the way here to root for you. Please, squash those Lyon boys without mercy."
"Nicki, I'm a huge fan..."
The fans yelled at the top of their voices for the next few minutes. Some even tried to step forward and approach the Rosenborg players.
However, airport security was ready for them. The law enforcers kept the passionate fans at bay and didn't allow any of them to push through their blockade and close in on the players. They only permitted a few reporters to approach after confirming that Coach Johansen didn't mind his players talking to the reporters.
"What the hell?!"
Zachary was startled when he noticed the group of reporters quickly zeroing in on his position. The team had never gotten such an enthusiastic reception outside of Norway, not even when they traveled to Turin to play against Juventus. So, he was a bit shaken by the whole spectacle before him.
"Welcome to Lyon, Zachary Bemba," a reporter said as he shoved a microphone in front of his face.
Before Zachary could reply, the other men and women of the press stepped forwards and shoved more microphones into his face. They surrounded him like a cackle of starving hyenas that had just chanced upon a helpless rabbit deep in the jungle.
"We're pleased to have you here in Lyon, Zachary," another reporter hurriedly said, probably trying to beat his counterpart to the chance of interviewing Zachary. His eyes glittered as he signaled for his cameraman to start recording.
"Okay, ladies and gentlemen. One person at a time. Don't cause discomfort to the players, or I'll ask security to dismiss you."
The UEFA guide in charge of the team stepped forward at the right moment to save the situation. He worked with the security personnel to ensure that the chaotic reporters were not causing any distress to the players.
After a few more minutes, the reporters finally obeyed. They became more docile and orderly while approaching Zachary. At least they were no longer squeezing into him and shoving microphones into his face.
"Zachary! Welcome to Lyon."
Zachary quickly noticed that it was a beautiful reporter with blue eyes and long blonde hair tied in a ponytail who had spoken. Surprisingly, she was clad in a fitting Rosenborg number-8 top, which happened to be his own shirt number on the team. She looked strikingly dapper and chic, especially after pairing the jersey with stylish denim pants that emphasized her lithe figure.
A smile flickered across Zachary's face like a hologram as he immediately developed a favorable impression of her. Maybe, it was because of the Rosenborg jersey, but he found her pleasing to the eyes.
"Thanks for the warm welcome," he said, nodding at her. "By the way, that shirt looks really great on you."
Her eyes crinkled at the corners as she let out a soft chuckle. "What can I say," she said with a sigh. "I'm a huge fan. Zachary! You'll play against Lyon at an away ground tomorrow night. How do you feel?"
"I'm just looking forward to playing against one of the best teams in France," Zachary replied with a steady voice. "I feel excited and expectant."
"Do you think you can win?" She asked.
"Obviously, we can win," Zachary said. "We have prepared enough as a team, and we'll head into the game looking only for a win. The final result will depend on how Lyon responds to our attacks."
"You've been incredible in the Europa League this season," she said. "You're even the top scorer of the tournament. Should we expect another goal from you tomorrow night?"
"That, I can't be sure," Zachary replied with a smile. "Moreover, it doesn't matter whether I score or not. Instead, what matters is that we win the game. I'll be delighted even if our keeper is the one that bags that crucial goal that helps us win."
The reporter beamed and said, "Thank you for answering my questions, Zachary. I wish you all the luck in tomorrow's game."
"Thank you," Zachary replied and turned his attention away from her. He then spent the next few minutes answering a few more questions from the other reporters before stepping away with the intent to regroup with his teammates.
But just then, the pretty blonde reporter tapped his shoulder and whispered in his ear, "If you're up for some fun, you can call me any time after the game. My business card is in the left pocket of your jacket." She then turned around and walked away without saying another word.
Zachary's eyes widened. He quickly felt around his left pocket with his hand, and indeed there was the smooth piece of paper that was the business card lying in there. He was surprised as the lady had managed to place it in his pocket without his notice. Her pickpocketing skills were obviously at the grandmaster level.
"This is weird," Zachary mused as he removed his hand from his pocket. Since there were many eyes observing him at the moment, he decided to wait and deal with the business card later. He'd already resolved to throw it away as he didn't wish to associate with such a sharp reporter.
"Zachary," Coach Johansen shouted from a distance. "Have you been smitten senseless by the French ladies? Hurry up! The team bus is already outside."
"Aye, coach," Zachary replied as a wry smile outlined his face. He immediately slung his gym bag over his shoulder before following his teammates and coaches outside of the airport.