The boos from the terraces have become so consistent on West Ham match days, you would think they had been recorded and were being piped in through the loudspeakers like some Spursy chant sound during the no-fans-allowed Covid days.
But they are indeed real and aimed with precision at Kurt Zouma. I can’t remember a time with exception for the plaudits for Samassi Abou, that an onomatopoeia was so frequently used as this one, and we’ve had some super and pantomime villains in this league along the way.
What originally came from both West Ham fans and rival supporters has seemed to tilt gradually to opposition fans trying to gain some moral high ground against us and to wind up Kurt Zouma. I think most West Ham supporters have either forgotten, forgiven, or ignored Zouma’s sins witnessed in ‘catgate’, and now cheer him on trying to alter the sound of the booing into ‘Zoouuuma’.
It should be known that as I sit here and type this, I have a rescue cat named Sweetie on my lap, and another stray named Arthur on the floor nearby with a bowl outside for a third kitten looking for a home at my front door.
When I first read, heard, saw the news I was hoping it was so outrageous that it was a bad joke. But like all the other fans, I was angry, disappointed, and ashamed of Zouma’s actions and my relationship with him as a supporter when I found they were real.
There is no excuse for what he did and it is outright wrong; Sometimes sympathy causes me to speculate that he was taught or trained by people to view animals as objects to be powerful over. Or that perhaps celebrity has corrupted him but I don’t want to dwell on the philosophy of the action or the intent behind it. There is nothing that excuses wielding abusive power over something or someone weaker.
Time to move on
But as a supporter I have now moved on and believe that for some actions, with equal measure accounted for their severity and longevity, there should be a punishment, and after that judgement, there can be restoration.
I support the choice that Moyes made to throw him into the squad right after the incident. I think that was the bravest and boldest approach: The outrage was due to happen – better to confront it as soon as possible; hiding from it would only prolong it. And to Moyes’ point – Zouma is the best centre back we have at the moment with Ogbonna out, and arguably better than Ogbonna when he is in.
Moyes’ job is to win, and if he were to take into account all the sins of each player hidden or open, we’d never field a team; nor would any other side. For the reaction he has received in media, social media, and at the stadium that day versus Watford, you would’ve assumed his game would’ve dropped massively, but instead, Zouma kept his head down and was a rock.
The next match versus Leicester saw him miss the match due to illness, which would be safe to deduce was from a build up of nerves causing illness whether directly or indirectly from the stress now realised a week later.
Since then Kurt has made nine appearances in the team, and – except for a poor performance versus Spurs – has been absolutely one of our most solid defenders. In the win versus Aston Villa, Zouma had a 100% pass completion rate with 38/38, and three long balls of three completed so he did not give the ball away once. In defence he won all of his aerial duels, made six clearances, and one interception. He had a header on goal that was only saved by a brilliant piece of goalkeeping.
The rest of his matches have seen him unaffected by the torrid of taunts from the crowd.
Highly sought player
Zouma has settled so easily in the club, that his £30 million price is one of the first expensive modern signings to pay immediate dividends; there was no break in or settling period for Kurt. He came as a highly sought player from Chelsea and has performed like one. If not for his trespass, Zouma would most likely be in contention for Hammer of the Year with Declan Rice.
He seems to be the future of West Ham with his age and ability and could find a natural defensive partner in youthful French Diop. And if Areola stays at West Ham, we could see a French Triumvirate in our back line. Zouma’s future necessitates that he can avoid the taunts, the chants, and the legal proceedings still trailing him.
Despite losing his two cats to the RSPCA, losing two weeks wages that were donated to charities – West Ham fronting £250,000 to nine different animal based charities – Zouma still faces continuous howls of displeasure and possible legal proceedings.
Adidas have dropped Zouma as a sponsor and the RSPCA are in the process of prosecuting him under the Animal Welfare Act. They have found that the cats suffered no injuries but the video evidence still shows abuse and Kurt as well as his brother Yoan are under investigation.
Whilst some of this Zouma-hatred is pure and based on a horrific incident, a lot of it also seems like opposition fans wanting West Ham to fall from our newly-gained perch.
Whatever happens to Zouma, I believe there is a path for restoration, and that as a cat-loving supporter, if measures are fully taken to punish, train, and restore Kurt, I will stand by and support him as he puts on the claret and blue.