The Sunday Mail
HE IS like a raging bull on the pitch but off it, this West African predator is soft as wool.
Straight from a match, Christian Joel Ntouba Epoupa – whom Dynamos fans love to call “Nyakanyaka” – heads straight to his apartment in Hatfield where he listens to some Zouglou – an urban type of music which originated from the Ivory Coast in the 1990s.
When he is not listening to his favourite music, Ntouba loves his sleep.
“I never go out, I am the biggest sleeper in the world!” revealed Epoupa in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail.
The past three weeks have been turbulent for the Cameroonian striker whose predatory instincts in front of goal have left most Dynamos opponents in awe.
In a moment of madness, Epoupa head-butted Highlanders defender Peter Muduhwa in retaliation and referee Arnold Ncube flashed a straight red in an event-filled Battle of Zimbabwe staged at Rufaro on September 10.
Just a day after, Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa, who chairs the Referees Committee, rescinded the red card and received widespread condemnation from a football fraternity which felt “Captain Fiasco” had stooped to an all-time low.
The Premier Soccer League intervened, declaring the red card stood and Epoupa missed the second part of the Harare Derby last week.
It has been a stormy period for the expatriate striker, one that got him to reflect about his career in Zimbabwe.
The love he gets from DeMbare fans and “the creator above” spurs him on.
“I just believe there is a supreme being above there and that has also kept me going,” said Epoupa.
Getting Epoupa to speak was as difficult as persuading Arsene Wenger to sell Alexis Sanchez to rivals Manchester City.
With the help of a translator, The Sunday Mail engaged the Cameroonian gunslinger in a wide-ranging interview in which the league’s top scorer opened up on a number of issues, the red card incident included.
“If it was in a real football world I should not have been shown the red card that day. But the reality is I am the one who got punished.
“I do not want to justify my action but a lot of things happened before that incident and I felt I should have gotten protection long before that moment,” revealed Epoupa.
That was the first time Epoupa had got a red card in his entire professional career.
So what happened?
Is this raging bull as temperamental as Chelsea’s wantaway striker Diego Costa?
“I had never received a red card before that match. I am not a temperamental player, no, not at all. I am just a football player.
“My teammates will tell you the kind of person I am. I am one guy who never goes out partying and stuff.
“I just love my music and when I am not listening to music I just sleep at home,” the Cameroonian said.
Epoupa has 12 league goals, most of them from the top drawer and he is by a mile the best striker in the league today.
Once again, Dynamos will bank on his sure-footed boot and precise head as they welcome Bulawayo City for a Chibuku Super Cup first round clash at Rufaro this afternoon.
How is he taking in all this limelight?
“I am not the best, only God is the best. The other thing, Dynamos is bigger than me,” he said.
“There are a lot of good players in Zimbabwe and at Dynamos in particular. Zimbabwe has got talent, the country is peaceful and I am enjoying my stay here.”
Not a minute passes without Epoupa mentioning God and as the interview progresses, the Cameroonian reveals that he believes in the Almighty .
“I just believe in the supreme one above us. God helps me a lot in my life, so it is always necessary to think of the Creator of everything,” he says.
The West African marksman has faced some of the best defenders in the country but he feels they have all not given him as much a tough time as he gets when he faces his teammates at training.
Partson Jaure, Stephen Makatuka and Peter Muduhwa are some of the toughest he has faced but to him none of them is as hard as the trio of Lincoln Zvasiya, Obey Mwerahari and Marshal Machazane.
“Those guys give me trouble at training, perhaps it is because of them that I have become one of the best strikers in the country,” revealed Epoupa.
So, can this lethal weapon finally break a seven-year record set by Norman Maroto?
Maroto was the last striker to breach the 20-goal mark when he banged in 22 goals for Gunners in 2010.
“Only the future can tell,” the humble Epoupa said.
As the chat was coming to an end, Epoupa realised he had forgotten to talk about one of the most important constituencies in his sphere.
The DeMbare legion of fans.
“Wow, they are the best. I can feel it, they love me and I also love them. They continue to give me strength to go forward.
“Without the Dynamos fans I am nothing, I love the noise they create especially during that match we won against Caps United.
“It was good to score two goals in a derby, they (fans) pushed us and I pray that the good Lord will bless them.”
Epoupa has stayed in Zimbabwe long enough to master a few Shona words but he says the local language is a bit difficult.
“Merci (thank you),” he says as the interview concludes.
“Oh by the way, I now know a little Shona . . . maita basa, is it? Shona is difficult but my teammates are trying all they can to teach me a few words at a time.”
How then does he communicate with his coach and fellow players?
“Le football est une langue universel (Football is a universal language).”