Johannesburg - Best-selling boy band One Direction
bounded onto the stage in Johannesburg on Saturday for their first show since
fans across the world were plunged into teenage distress over heartthrob Zayn
Malik quitting the group.
A deafening wall of excited screams greeted the remaining
four members of the British-Irish group, who have earned a global following
since bursting onto the scene in a television talent show in 2010.
Adoring young fans said they feared the departure of
Malik, 22, could mean the break-up of One Direction, but the performers made no
mention of their missing bandmate as they tore into a string of hits, including
What Makes You Beautiful.
"Thank you for choosing to spend your evening with
us," singer and songwriter Harry Styles told a packed-out Soccer City
stadium, to loud cheers from the crowd.
"You have no idea how much we love you right
now," he said at the start of the energetic set.
Directioners - as the band's loyal followers are known -
poured into the stadium five hours before their heroes started their set, and
many expressed their shock over Malik's departure.
"When my cousin told me, I screamed, and my dad came
running down the stairs as he thought that something happened," said Aditi
Ramdhani, 13, who had travelled six hours from Durban with her family to see
"I was heartbroken. He was the quiet one and the
most handsome one.
"He has made his decision and I want him to be
happy, but it is so sad."
Nazeema Ajodha and her daughter Ria booked tickets to see
the group play on Saturday night and again on Sunday at the same venue, but
said they were distraught not to catch the full line-up.
"When we heard the news, our hearts just
dropped," Ria said.
"The band is never going to be the same. Zayn was
the one who did all the high notes. He was the best. He was the
The devotion of 1D's vocal young fans has often been
compared to the mania surrounding earlier all-male pop groups like Take That or
even the Beatles.
Reports spread of girls threatening to self-harm as news
of Malik's exit took over social media, and mental health charities in Britain
urged upset fans to seek support.
Among the many dutiful parents in the crowd on Saturday
was Anke Gutknecht, who said she had bought tickets 11 months ago for a group
of eight family and friends.
"He should have made a go of it and kept
together," she said.
"They're young. They've got everything going for
them, so I think it was a silly move, but we don't know what the reasons
Malik, who flew home from the band's world tour last week
suffering from stress, released a statement on Wednesday announcing he had left
"I am leaving because I want to be a normal
22-year-old," he said.
Oratile Mokubyane, who took his 10-year-old sister to the
concert, said she was tearful at Malik's leaving.
"Our house is covered in One Direction stuff,"
he said. "She is threatening to cross his head out of all her
One Direction heads to Europe next before a string of
concerts across the United States.
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