Kurt Zouma 'could face four years' as French groups demand prosecution over cat kicking

9 February 2022, 12:04 | Updated: 9 February 2022, 12:29

Zouma faces prosecution over a video of him kicking his cat
Zouma faces prosecution over a video of him kicking his cat. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Under-fire footballer Kurt Zouma could face four years in prison in France after a bid to prosecute him for kicking his cat got under way.

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The West Ham centre-back was seen in a video kicking and slapping his pet, with the caption "it is beginning" written over the footage. Its publication has shocked the nation and been condemned by football figures and politicians.

The France international, who was booed by fans when he played in Tuesday night's game for his club against Watford, is now the target of a bid to see him face legal proceedings over the clip.

The 30 Million Friends Foundation, an animal rights charity, and the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA), both in France, have taken legal action and asked prosecutors to get involved.

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In France, convictions for the mistreatment of animals can result in four years in jail and a fine of around £50,000, the Daily Mail reports.

A spokesman for the 30 Million Friends Foundation said: "We condemn this heinous act, have asked that the player be suspended from the France team, and filed a legal complaint against him."

The president of SPA, Jacques-Charles Fombonne, said the clip was made worse by the presence of a child and added: "This person must be prosecuted.

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"It is unworthy… we're talking about a football player, a star, that is to say someone in who all the kids who kick a ball want to identify [with]."

The French penal code allows for French citizens to be prosecuted for crimes committed while overseas.

More than 120,000 people called for Zouma to be punished by signing a petition. He is under investigation by Essex Police and the RSPCA.

The defender said sorry after The Sun posted the clip online.

"I want to apologise for my actions. There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret," he 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, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again."

His apology did nothing to quell supporter anger on Tuesday night, when he was booed after being named in the team by manager David Moyes.

Asked on BT Sport whether the video of Zouma influenced his decision to play the defender, the Hammers boss said: "No, because he's one of our better players.

"But it's certainly ongoing and the club are dealing with it, so that's a separate matter."

The decision has been heavily criticised. Football legend and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said on Twitter: "Shocked and appalled that @WestHam played Zouma last night. A tone deaf decision."

The club had said in a statement: "West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated.

"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."

Speaking on LBC on Wednesday, health minister Edward Argar said: "I think we've all seen that horrific video. There is no place for such abhorrent violence against animals, for animal cruelty in this country.

"We have some of the strongest welfare standards in this country, and we've been clamping down on animal cruelty. I won't comment on an individual case specifically, that's for the authorities.

"I would expect them to look at this and I would expect the police to look at this."