West Ham have failed in every imaginable way – and even let Kurt Zouma down

People are enraged by a video of the West Ham defender drop kicking his cat across the kitchen floor – the club’s response has been disastrous

Tom Peck
Wednesday 09 February 2022 12:40 GMT
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West Ham’s Kurt Zouma kicks and slaps cat in horrific footage

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

In the moments before kick off at the London Stadium on Tuesday night, it was hardly surprising that the TV cameras all pointed at Kurt Zouma and then stayed there.

They lingered on him as he went through his standard pre-match warm up routine, and they broadcast to everybody watching, as he went around his teammates, one by one, hugging, embracing and high fiving them all.

Declan Rice, who you would be brave to bet against being the next captain of England, gave him a high 10 and placed his arms around him. It’s what footballers do. But it seems more than a little bit unfair on Zouma’s team mates that they should have been placed in this position.

Large numbers of people are enraged by Kurt Zouma’s behaviour. In a video that appears to have been voluntarily posted on Snapchat by his brother, Zouma is seen drop kicking his cat across the kitchen floor, and then later, when the cat is being held above the kitchen counter by a little boy, West Ham’s highest paid player slaps the cat hard across the face.

His employer, West Ham United, put out a statement saying they “unreservedly condemn” his actions, and then, a few hours later, rendered that statement utterly meaningless by picking him to play in a match that evening.

The ways in which the club has failed are difficult to count. When asked about why he had picked him, the manager David Moyes said it was because “he is one of our better players”. This was a statement of jaw-dropping stupidity. He may not have meant to do so but words matter, and with these ones, he confirmed that any disciplinary action a player might face for humiliating the club in public is set against their value on the pitch.

Kurt Zouma: West Ham manager David Moyes 'really disappointed' by cat-kicking video

One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most famous mantras was that no player is bigger than the club. He stood by it too. Moyes has confirmed the opposite – that West Ham actively chooses to shrink in front of its grander employees.

Later he said: “He will remain available for selection. The club will sort the other side of it out and I’ll look after the football side.” Again, this is an almost mesmerising cowardice. What “other side” does a football club have, beyond a “football side”? There is a clue in the name.

It’s not merely that Moyes and West Ham have enraged the public. They have embarrassed their other players.

The correct course of action is difficult. Before the match, when asked what West Ham should have done, their former player Joe Cole, now one of the very best pundits around, struggled to find an answer. There is virtually no precedent to draw upon. He pointed out that “animal cruelty” is not something that’s ever visited the football world before. The police have said they will not prosecute, which makes life even harder for West Ham, now that they cannot simply outsource the disciplinary procedures to the police.

The video is horrifying, but it is in no way to condone Zouma’s behaviour to point out that it is not, for want of a better word, sadistic. The cat is not subjected to extreme violence. It is slapped, and it is not quite so much drop kicked as dropped and then, via Zouma’s foot, pushed hard across the floor. One suspects that more extreme violence would have certainly led to criminal prosecution. But it means that it is now mainly up to West Ham to deal with the consequences of Zouma’s actions, and so far it has failed in every imaginable way.

Many have called for the player to be sacked and thrown out of the club straight away. It is not surprising West Ham are unwilling to do that. Were that to happen, Zouma would likely spend the remainder of this season going on a public journey of rehabilitation. Some counselling, a large donation to an animal rights charity, and then, come the summer, be enthusiastically snapped up by one of West Ham’s rivals.

But if they are unwilling to sanction such a thing, then they have to start to try to rehabilitate the player’s reputation. It scarcely needs to be stated that you can’t be rehabilitated unless your actions are seen to have had some consequences, and so far there have been absolutely none.

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It’s not merely that West Ham have embarrassed themselves and their players, they have also, arguably, let down Zouma himself, who is this morning even more loathed than yesterday morning, by virtue of not having been required to miss even a single match, and one that occurred less than 24 hours after the video became public.

West Ham’s chief executive is Karren Brady. Tonight, she will be swanking about on The Apprentice on BBC One, no doubt up in gently patronising arms about the contestants’ latest spectacular failure to carry out some comparatively simple business task or other. Meanwhile, her highest paid employee has kicked a cat across his kitchen, the video’s been seen by the entire world and she’s done absolutely nothing about it. That is a failure far more absurd than anything that show has managed in even its most laughable moments.

Whether this incident should or shouldn’t be the end of Kurt Zouma’s career is a matter on which there will inevitably be disagreement. But it’s clear what side West Ham are on, and currently, they are not helping either themselves, or him.

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