A Muslim premier league footballer has taken a second wife in his native Côte d’Ivoire. Although polygamy is illegal both in that country and in the UK, Cheick Tioté, 28, who earns £45,000 ($73,000) a week playing for Newcastle United insists he has done nothing wrong and that it is “nothing unusual”.
Tioté already has one wife, Madah, 25, who lives with him and their two young children in their £1.5 million stone farmhouse just outside Newcastle. He also has a one year old child by his mistress Nkosiphile Mpofu, 33, known as Nikki, who he promised to wed.
And earlier this month he wed his new bride Laeticia Doukrou in a traditional ceremony in Côte d’Ivoire, taking his first wife by surprise. According to Ivorian news website iMatin, Madah had not been aware that the marriage was set to take place. When she saw the pictures on Facebook, she fainted with shock.
A source in contact with Tioté told The Sun “He doesn’t see a problem with having two wives. It’s perfectly acceptable in his culture. He doesn’t see he has done anything wrong and doesn’t know what the fuss is all about.”
His agent Jean Musampa also didn’t think there was anything strange about the wedding, telling the Daily Mail “I can say that he did get married and that it is his second marriage. This is nothing unusual. He is a Muslim.”
Under Sharia law men can take up to four wives, and the practice is legal in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Malaysia, amongst other countries. South African President Jacob Zuma has four wives and is an advocate of polygamy. In Iran and Libya written permission must be sought from the first wife before subsequent marriages can take place. Polygamy was outlawed in Côte d’Ivoire in 1964, but the practice continues as it is customary within both Muslim and animist communities in the country.
Polygamy has never been widely practiced in the UK and has been officially illegal since at least 1603. The latest statute to tackle the practice was enacted within the Offences against the Person Act 1861. Polygamous marriages carried out legally in other countries are also not recognised in the UK for pension, immigration or citizenship purposes, but may be recognised for the purposes of welfare benefits. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that there are as many as 20,000 polygamous marriages within the UK Muslim community.
Tioté’s first wife has now forgiven him and accepted the new marriage, but his Zimbabwean-born mistress has finished their relationship, claiming he used her “like a mop”, and alleging that he had promised to wed her too. She was spotted earlier this week leaving the Waitrose in the village where the Tioté family live, carrying their young son Rafael Tioté.
Tioté was born in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire and learned to play football by playing the game barefoot on the streets. He got his first pair of boots aged 15, and joined Ivorian minor league team F.C Bibo before being scouted by the Belgian team Anderlecht. Between 2005 and 2010 he played for a number of European teams, before finally joining Newcastle United. In 2011 he signed a six and a half year deal with the club, saying “The experience of playing in the Premier League has been better than I ever hoped it could be. This is a great club and the fans have been brilliant – I have never known support like it.” During his first two seasons with Newcastle, he picked up 25 yellow cards and one red in 50 league games. The midfielder also plays in international games for Côte d’Ivoire.
Last October he narrowly avoided jail time after pleading guilty to driving on a fake licence. The judge handed him a seven month suspended sentence and ordered him to undertake 180 hours of unpaid community service, saying “I have no doubt that, using your considerable talent, you will be able to assist others in the community by encouraging them and passing on your skills that way.” Tioté had to be called back to court as prosecutors forgot to also ban him from driving having accumulated 12 points.