One Direction’s Zayn leaves tour

The National, March 2015

“Zayn has been signed off with stress and is flying back to the UK to recuperate.”

It’s just 16 simple words but a sentence to strike fear into the hearts of any One Direction fan excitedly counting down the days until the biggest boy band in the world play Dubai Sevens Stadium on April 4.

Don’t, however, worry too much just yet. The shows in Manila (on March 21 and 22) and Jakarta (March 25) will go ahead without Zayn Malik, and there’s no suggestion of any cancellation of the South African leg of the On The Road Again tour, which has gigs scheduled for Johannesburg on March 28 and 29, and Cape Town on April 1, which immediately precedes the eagerly anticipated UAE date.

“Zayn has gone back to the UK for stress relief and all the shows will continue as scheduled,” says Thomas Ovesen, chief executive of promoter Done Events. “He will return for the South Africa and Dubai shows. I’m not stressing and I am sure he can resolve what ever he needs to resolve.

“I don’t want to even ­contemplate the show in ­Dubai without him – but the One Direction show is so much more than one individual band member. It’s not like an Ed Sheeran show without Ed Sheeran performing.”

That’s a fair point – but then again, One Direction without Zayn is like, well, Lennon without McCartney (1D fans: ask your parents).

See, before we go into the specifics (and scurrilous speculation) of what happened in Thailand to stress Zayn out, it’s worth pointing out that if Niall had been signed off sick and sent home, it probably wouldn’t have caused quite the same shockwaves. Zayn, along with Harry Styles, IS One Direction.

With his model-style good looks and air of naughtiness and mystery, who on earth is going to sing the quite brilliant first lines of Night Changes if it isn’t the self-styled Bradford Badboi? Somebody will have to in Manila.

But how did it get to this point in the first place? Is Zayn genuinely stressed out?

One thing’s for sure, he is in trouble with his fiancée, Perrie Edwards. During a night out in Phuket, Thailand, this week, he was pictured holding hands with someone who definitely wasn’t the woman he is engaged to marry. The young lady in question didn’t exactly help matters by then posting an Instagram of them looking, ahem, very close.

Zayn knew he had some explaining to do – and on Wednesday tweeted this penitent message: “I’m 22 years old … I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there’s a lot of jealous [people] in this world. I’m sorry for what it looks like.”

It does seem likely that Perrie Edwards required more than 140 characters-worth of explanation, which perhaps explains Zayn’s sudden return to the UK.

British newspaper The Sun, quoting an unnamed “source”, suggested all the attention had simply got too much.

“Zayn finds it tougher than the rest of his bandmates dealing with fame,” the source said. “Having his every movement scrutinised causes great anxiety and the pictures which surfaced with the fan yesterday was the final straw. He did nothing wrong but the amount of criticism he received was simply too much. He needs to get away.”

This account was given some added credibility by Zayn’s sister, Waliya, who, via Instagram, begged Directioners to stop giving her brother a hard time.

“All the stress has just gotten to him because of the rumours and hatred he has heard and received,” she wrote. “It’s really hurting him, some people are just giving him too much.”

We are, of course, in classic boy-band territory here. Backstreet Boys, Take That, Busted – they all experienced the giddy rise to success, fortune and the adoration of millions of female fans everywhere they went, followed by the eventual realisation that those exact same longed-for trappings of fame were utterly exhausting.

As Take That’s Robbie Williams says in his biography: “We were tired and scared.” What’s happening to Zayn and One Direction is no different.

But what does all this mean for the Dubai show, now just two weeks away? Thankfully, Waliya seems confident that, as Ovesen suggested, by the time the gig comes around, Zayn will have sorted everything out and be ready to rock the Sevens Arena.

“Don’t worry guys,” she wrote. “Zayn is going to be OK very soon.”

And with that, an army of UAE Directioners breathed a sigh of relief.

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