LONDON (AFP) – Kurt Zouma was named in the West Ham starting line-up for Tuesday’s (Feb 8) Premier League clash with Watford despite apologising for a video of him kicking and slapping a cat.
The French international defender is seen in the clip dropping, kicking and hitting the animal, while laughter can be heard in the background.
The 27-year-old then chases the cat, before throwing a pair of shoes at it and slapping its head.
West Ham condemned Zouma’s actions in a strongly worded statement following publication of the clip online.
“West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated,” the club said in a statement.
“We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”
However, the club faced a backlash for allowing him to play against Watford.
Zouma, who joined West Ham from Chelsea in August 2021, also released a statement expressing his regret.
“I want to apologise for my actions,” he said.
“There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret.
“I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video. I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy.
“They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
Zouma’s brother, Dagenham and Redbridge defender Yoan, was on Tuesday condemned by his club for filming the video and for “his reactions to the events shown”.
Yoan Zouma said he deeply regretted his actions in his own statement on the club’s official website.
The RSPCA animal welfare charity described the video as “very upsetting”.
“It’s never acceptable to kick, hit or slap an animal, for punishment or otherwise,” said a spokesman.
“We are so grateful to people who report suspected animal suffering to us and we would like to reassure people we will always look into and, if necessary, investigate any complaints made to us about animal welfare.”
Maggie Roberts, director of veterinary services the Cats Protection charity, said causing an animal unnecessary suffering was a criminal offence and cases of cruelty should be reported to the RSPCA.
In a statement, Essex Police said: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media relating to an incident involving a cat, which members of our communities may find distressing.
“We have recently been made aware that this incident may have taken place in Essex and we are liaising with the RSPCA. Urgent enquiries are ongoing.”
Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango, speaking about the matter at a parliamentary select committee hearing, said: “It is not for us to discipline him – it is for the employer to discipline – but our role is to tell the player this type of behaviour is not acceptable.”