Kurt Zouma will continue to play for West Ham despite the public outcry surrounding his cat abuse, with manager David Moyes insisting: “I can still look myself in the mirror.”
There have been calls for Moyes to drop the French defender over the video which emerged of him kicking and slapping his cat.
Moyes caused more controversy by picking Zouma to face Watford on Tuesday, barely 24 hours after the footage was released and amid a wave of condemnation.
National League club Dagenham have suspended Zouma’s brother Yoan, who is understood to have filmed the video, while the RSPCA, which has taken the player’s two cats into its care, investigates the incident.
But Moyes confirmed on Friday that £30million centre-half Zouma, remains available for selection for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Leicester as West Ham continue to chase a top-four finish and a lucrative place in the Champions League.
“Yes he’s available to play against Leicester. There are different views and opinions on should he be available? We as a club took that decision and I stand by that,” said Moyes.
“I understand the criticism. I understand how severe the video was. What he did was terrible so I understand the criticism of me personally.
“The thing is I know where my own moral compass is. I know if it’s to do with animals then people are critical. But nobody enjoys animals more than me.
“So from that point of view I can look in the mirror at myself. But I totally understand why people would be disappointed by the club’s decision to play him. But that’s a decision I made and I stand by that.”
Zouma has been fined the maximum two weeks’ wages, which will go to animal welfare groups.
Moyes added: “I don’t think the club could take more action or any quicker. West Ham have fined him the maximum wages. We all accept the actions are terrible and diabolical.
“We are so disappointed, it is completely out of character from Kurt. He is a really good lad and we are going to get him some help and try to give him as much help as we can.
“Like drink-driving offences, most people have to go to classes and the RSPCA are going to provide him with classes.
“We will do everything we can to make sure Kurt is looking into it, and getting better, and understanding it.”
🎙 The boss is speaking to the media ahead of our match against Leicester City this weekend. Click on the link below to follow along on our live blog…#LEIWHU— West Ham United (@WestHam) February 11, 2022
Moyes has not been afraid to drop players in the past for disciplinary reasons, having previously left Michail Antonio out for being late for team meetings.
But he insisted: “He’s (Zouma) treated the exact same way as any other player.”
The Scot hopes the incident will not detract from the great strides West Ham have made, on and off the field, over the past couple of years.
“I’ve never had (an incident) like this. As a football manager it shows you never know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“That’s part of being in this job. We’d rather we weren’t making news. West Ham have made really, really good news in the last two years.
“We’ve a really good side. I’m sad the focus has been taken away from what is, at the moment, a really good season.”
A petition to have Zouma prosecuted has now topped 300,000 signatures while West Ham have lost sponsors amid the backlash, with Experience Kissimmee cutting its ties with the club and Vitality suspending its sponsorship. Sportswear firm adidas has also dropped the 27-year-old.
Moyes said: “The situation is terrible, the incident is terrible, we all totally agree with that. There is nobody at this football club who does not agree with that.
“Sponsorship, if it gets taken away, is something the club will deal with, not me.
“As I said the other night we are so disappointed, it was completely out of character for Kurt. We have never seen this and he is a really good lad.
“I’m really surprised by it and he is getting help so we are trying to do as much as we possibly can as a club and a team to help him.”
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