Professional footballer Kurt Zouma has been accused of animal cruelty after a video showing him striking his pet cat emerged online.
The 27-year-old, who plays as a center-back for the Premier League club West Ham United and the France national team, was filmed kicking a Bengal cat across the floor like a football.
The disturbing footage shows Zouma chasing the animal around the house as he throws shoes at them.
In the final clip, the soccer player slaps the animal in the face and out of a child’s arms. It’s not clear whether the minor is one of Zouma’s three children, although sports broadcaster Gabby Logan suggests they are. Logan wrote on Twitter: “I think I would probably get rid of a player who kicked and hit an animal for ‘laughs’ in his kitchen. All in front of his child.”
It is also not known whether the athlete was hitting one or both of his cats in the footage.
Zouma’s brother Yoan is said to have taken the video, and can be heard laughing behind the camera. Like his brother, 23-year-old Yoan is a professional footballer for Dagenham and Redbridge.
Yoan posted the video, obtained by The Sun, on Snapchat the day after West Ham’s FA Cup fourth-round win at Kidderminster.
Warning: this video contains content that may disturb viewers
‘Disgusting’ animal abuse
The video was met with uproar; social media users flocked to the athlete’s comment section on Instagram to voice their disapproval. Some slammed the “disgusting” and “inexcusable” act. Others called his ambassadorship with Seed – which is raising money to help an animal rescue fix its big cat enclosure – hypocritical.
Zouma has since deactivated comments on the social media platform. Although, he still has just shy of two million Instagram followers.
The athlete issued a public apology about the incident. “I want to apologize for my actions. There are no excuses for my behavior, which I sincerely regret,” Zouma said.
“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,” he added. “And this behavior was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
West Ham, which signed Zouma in the summer from Chelsea for £29.8 million, wanted to make its stance on the matter clear.
“West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of 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.”
The RSPCA (England and Wales) named the video “very upsetting.”
“We’ve had lots of messages regarding an upsetting video of a cat and would like to reassure people we’re aware of it,” the animal protection group wrote on Twitter. “We will always look into any complaints made about animal welfare but we can’t comment on individual matters for legal reasons. Thank you for understanding.”
In a separate statement, the charity clarified: “It’s never acceptable to kick, hit or slap an animal, for punishment or otherwise.”
Despite this, the Metropolitan Police will not be investigating the matter.