In Defence of Kurt Zouma: How animal cruelty is an inevitable byproduct of the modern turbo-motivated sportsman
Taff Goose, manager of non-league Streatham Rovers Football Club, gives us an insight into elite sport's sometimes controversial relationship with animals.
The shadow of animal cruelty has been cast over the game of association football longer than any of us can even remember. From the inflated pig’s bladders of the old village mob football games to the crudely taxidermied farm or zoo corpses children would bring to Wembley for cup finals during the inter-war period, soccer and the animal kingdom have not always seen eye-to-eye.
Even as “a whole new ball game” of the Premier League revolutionised the English game players and staff would still be found relaxing by taking in an illegal dog fight down a less reputable boozer. I should know - I was there.
I won’t name names - that would be unfair - but there was even an incident when I played for the original Wimbledon FC where we witnessed - and placed bets on - a Man vs. Rottweiler bout in the car park of a Toby Carvery. ‘Crazy Gang’ by name, ‘Crazy Gang’ by nature.
Yes, the game has cleaned up its act. You’re as likely to catch a Mason Mount or a Todd Cantwell at a cockfighting den as you are to see Jeremy Clarkson at a vegan restaurant. But nowadays there’s a new form of animal cruelty in the sport: the motivational overspill.
Players like Kurt Zouma are young men, in the prime of their lives, trained to the peak of physical perfection, and turbo-motivated by the latest experimental sports psychology. What do you expect to happen?
It’s not just players at the top level of the game. As money floods non-league even in the Xtermin8 Rat Poison Football League you will find players wound up and ready to burst. At Streatham Rovers we pride ourselves on implementing the very best in sports psychology to almost brainwash our squad. Win at all costs. #NeverStopNotGivingUp. Destroy the opposition.
Does this help them succeed on the pitch? Most definitely, yes. Does this help them lead completely normal lives? No. Not all the time. With a fully primed sporting specimen you’re always going to have occasional incidents. A car crash here, a headbutted postman there.
And, almost inevitably, domestic pets bear much of the brunt of this. And I’m sorry if this sounds callous, but as a manager of a football team, a man responsible for achieving success in a results-based business, it’s something I welcome.
I’ll never forget that first team meeting in lockdown, via Zoom. I looked at the grainy pixelated faces of my squad, absolutely terrified that they’d lost the hunger after a couple of weeks without training. Then one player, who will remain nameless, said, “There’s something I want to show you, gaffa.” He got up, turned around and roundhouse kicked a goldfish bowl off a shelf behind him. I was almost in tears - tears of joy, tears of relief.
As he picked up his webcam to show these pathetic little fish quivering on his living room floor gasping for breath we all cheered. I stood up clapping my hands like a real life emoji shouting, “Get in there Patrick!” I’m not ashamed of that.
So to see the usual suspects condemning Zouma has really boiled my blood. These ignorant fools have no idea what it’s like to be a modern footballer. Just be thankful he didn't kick the mog so hard it exploded on impact.