Small psychological gap between Zouma and Greenwood cases

Johnny Watterson: Clubs failing to equip their stars with the skills needed to stay out of legal trouble

You may not have wished to watch the video. Before it begins there is a warning stating ‘displaying scenes of animal cruelty.’ This is what happens.

French international footballer and West Ham United player Kurt Zouma is seen walking towards the camera in his house with a cat in his hands.

He enters what looks like the kitchen area and drop kicks the cat across the smooth surfaced white floor. Yes, he drop kicks it. The cat slides on its belly and side along the tiles to the other end of the room.

It is impossible to tell if it is injured or not but it then takes flight, hiding under the chairs and table in the adjacent room. Zouma then strips down to his tee shirt, grabs a shoe and hurls it towards the cat before he hunts it around the house as it vainly tries to hide. It is apparently one of two pet cats he owns.


Seconds later the animal, obviously not of a feral disposition to fight back, is meekly presented to him by what looks like a child. Zouma has three children and it is not known if this child is one of them.

He then hits the cat, a hard and loud slap across the head and face. The blow violently knocks the animal from the child’s hands and onto the floor.

The cat appears to run away again and the video stops. Throughout there is laughter from the person taking the video, reported to be Zouma’s brother Yohan, also a professional footballer.

Both acts by the player, the dropkick and the hard slap are violent and easily likely to injure the animal, although in an apology he says both of his cats are healthy. Despite the tittering and guffawing in the back ground, it is a grossly offensive 44 seconds of footage.

The contribution of the child, whose face is pixilated, makes the scene more substantially disturbing, the wonder being where the role model stuff begins to kick in. Or maybe that was it.

The two cats were reportedly taken away by the RSPCA and medically examined and an investigation is being conducted, while West Ham has fined their player £250,000.

According to Spotrac, the largest online sports team and player contract resource on the internet, Zouma signed a 4 year, £24,960,000 contract with West Ham including an annual average salary of £6,240,000. In 2021 he earned an estimated base salary of £6,240,000.

What is arresting about the kick, hard enough to cause internal injuries to the animal and the slap, violent enough to break bones in a cat’s fragile jaw, is the unexceptional way in which it was delivered. It was conducted with an overwhelming indifference to fear, suffering or injury.

Coming off the back of Manchester United player, Mason Greenwood's recent arrest, Zouma is the latest in a line of privileged young footballers outdoing each other in base behaviour.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that hot housing talented kids, signing them to big clubs as children, ignoring the traditional maturation pathways and hitting them with wads of money as teenagers is not always clever.

Reinforcing they are special comes with the tag that their entitlement as high earners but not big thinkers, buys them a different kind of social license.

Former Irish rugby coach and current director of rugby at London Irish, Declan Kidney, as well as many of his coaching pearls of wisdom, spoke about the professional rugby players in his care becoming educated.

A former teacher, his view wasn’t only that their careers could end any week but to equip them with a perspective and understanding of another world. He demanded they had life skills.

Rugby players misbehave too and Paddy Jackson is currently playing with London Irish. Maybe Kidney believes in redemption, rehabilitation. Maybe Zouma deserves that. Maybe if there is never any way back for the sinners then maybe we are all really no better than dispassionately cold cat kickers.

But it seems long overdue that Premier League clubs like West Ham and Manchester United faced bigger deals than shirt sales and acknowledged they are ill equipping their star signings with not just the skills needed to represent them on a public stage but those needed to keep them out of prison.

What part of their contract commits them to attend regular non-football programmes that help furnish them with an ability to live outside the Premier League bubble.

Zouma began his career at Saint-Étienne, making his professional debut aged 16 and going on to win the Coupe de la Ligue with the club in 2013. He joined Chelsea for £12 million in January 2014. He then played with St-Etienne on loan, Stoke City and Everton before joining West Ham.

Despised by many in the country in which he lives with more than 110,000 people signing an online petition calling for prosecution, sponsors are now fleeing by the day.

He was also booed by both sets of fans in Tuesday's game against Watford after his club decided the viral video wasn't enough to have him benched.

It might all sound like pearl clasping, finger wagging and woke BS and the allegations of sexual assault against Greenwood are of an entirely different magnitude. But you might ask what the psychological distance is between kicking a cat or hitting another person and find that it’s not that far.