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Hullabaloo over Kurt Zouma and his expensive cats

Last Sunday, the finals of the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was played between Senegal and seven-time winners of the championship…

Last Sunday, the finals of the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was played between Senegal and seven-time winners of the championship Egypt. The finals indeed lived up to expectations as the best of African football was on display. Most of us in sub-saharan Africa rooted for Senegal to win their first ever AFCON title and it came to pass. The Lions of Teranga triumphed over the Pharaohs of Egypt 4-2 on penalties after a barren draw in regulation and extra time.

It was during the penalty shoot-out that most fans who watched the match live at the Olembe stadium in Yaounde or on their screens across the globe noticed something strange and immediately raised the alarm. It was the ‘Gabaski water bottle’.  The Egyptian goalkeeper, Mohammed Abou Gabal, was wrongly accused of using juju, jazz to stop the Senegalese players from scoring against him in the penalty shoot-out.

So, I wanted to write on the ‘Gabaski water bottle’ but before I could settle down to write and educate everyone that the controversial bottle wrapped in pieces of papers was nothing but names of Senegalese players and the direction they usually shoot their kicks from the spot, another event that has caught the attention of the whole world unfolded. Therefore, I am left with no option than to change my plan.

Few hours after the Lions of Teranga were crowned African champions, a video emerged of West Ham United of England burly defender, Kurt Zouma, physically assaulting one of his two lovely cats. None of us can explain exactly what triggered his action but the short video revealed how he kicked and slapped the pet.

Immediately the video got posted on social media, it went viral and I am sure Zouma’s younger brother, Yoan, who posted it must be regretting his action. The consequences of that seemingly harmless action have been overwhelming. Already Zouma has been fined 250,000 Pounds sterling which is almost N200m for just kicking his cat. In addition, his kit sponsor, Adidas have severed ties with him. That is going to cost him another thousands of pounds or let me say millions of naira. Then he is facing a four-year jail term or a fine of 50,000 Pounds sterling. Zouma is indeed paying heavily for his involuntary action. There are even calls for him to be left out of West Ham’s tie with Leicester City. Many more may come in the days to come.

The cost of that ‘vicious’ kick, yes vicious in the eyes of the Europeans, has gone beyond the offender to the club he is playing for. One of West Ham United’s sponsors, Vitality, an energy drink company, has suspended its sponsorship of the club. That is going to cost the Hammers millions of Pounds. And the young man who posted the video with or without the consent of his elder brother has been suspended by his club, Dagenham and Redbridge and is under investigation.

One interesting thing about the whole saga is that immediately after the video went viral, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) went to Zouma’s house and removed the two pets for medical examination. They were evacuated from the ‘war zone’ which the footballer’s house had become and taken to a veterinary doctor who examined the cats and certified that no grievous injuries were inflicted on them.

Even as the cats were said to be in a stable condition, there is no respite for Zouma as different organizations have continued to call for his head. Some even want him sacked by West Ham. The Zouma and cat’s saga is now taking a whole new dimension as it is sadly snowballing into a face-off between the black and white race.

 Most blacks including Zouma’s team mate, Michail Antonio believes the backlash is because Zouma is a black guy. Others in support of Zouma have also cited several instances that white players like Eden Hazard had assaulted human beings on the football pitch, yet no serious action was taken against them. So, racism is almost cashing in on the unfortunate situation to rubbish FIFA’s campaign against it.

To bring this closer home, most Nigerians are yet to understand how and why ordinary kicking of a cat has generated so much fuss. This is so because in Africa, particularly Nigeria, life has become so cheap. Human beings are killed with reckless abandon with no dire consequences. No day passes without gruesome killing of human beings either by kidnappers, bandits, Boko haram, security personnel, witches and wizards, drunk drivers, clerics who advise the sick against seeking medical help or quack medical personnel. These and a lot more happen but life continues as if nothing had happened.

It is against this background that so many Nigerians have expressed shock that it is costing Zouma a whopping N250,000 Pounds for kicking his cat while in Nigeria compensation or the for killing a fellow human being can be as low as N100,000 or in some cases not even a dime. Moreover, here in Nigeria, most of us don’t only kick or slap, we kill and eat meat from cats without consequence.

But don’t be surprised at the end of the cat-kicking saga, Zouma whose over N141m is to be donated to animal welfare charities may be asked to pay heavy compensation to his pets. This may come as another shock to us but that is what is obtainable in sane societies where premium value is placed on even domestic animals.

In all these, my sincere prayer is that Nigerians should learn lessons from this cat-kicking incident and begin to treat other human beings with respect. If an ‘ordinary’ cat is deserving of such love and attention, then human beings should get even better treatment. Maybe the high and mighty in Nigeria would learn not to trample on the rights of the less privileged.

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