The Kurt Zouma Cat And Other Stories Of Animals In Football
Once the Kurt Zouma cat video was released to the public in early 2022, the Premier League player was always going to be facing some major backlash. His club West Ham slapped with the maximum fine that they could. Social media gave him some serious stick.
In addition to that, the RSPCA moved to prosecute the player and the Kurt Zouma cat incident was taken to the Thames’ Magistrates court which gave him 180 hours of community service.
The Kurt Zouma Cat Video
The Zouma video showed the footballer kicking cat incident in clear detail when it was uploaded to Snapchat. It obviously caused a massive outcry against the player and his action. The clip showed Zouma volleying the cat across the room, before chasing it and slapping its face. The unpleasant video also saw Zouma banned for five years from owning cats.
From The Kurt Zouma Cat To Habibou’s Duck
Finally the sentencing, a line has been drawn under the Zouma kicking cat incident. But to lighten the mood, it got us thinking about animals in football in a broader sense. The two in some strange way appear to be inexplicably linked when you start looking around.
It’s not a particularly deep dive that you have to go down, in order to find examples of animals in football.
Teams adopt animals as mascots and claim nicknames like the Robins and the Canaries. Animals have also been known to make surprise appearances on the field of play.
Creatures have even been used to ‘predict’ the outcome of World Cup and European Championship matches.
In this article, we shift over to a brighter side, away from the grim Kurt Zouma cat incident, and look at some of the lighter moments involving animals in football.
FC Köln’s Famous Goat
First we will start with a story about one of the most famous animals in football. That is the goat of German Bundesliga side FC Köln, who is called Hennes. The history of the link goes back to the 1950s. At the turn of the decade, FC Köln had a party to celebrate the second year of its existence.
FC Köln was raised out of two clubs, Kölner Ballspiel-Club 1901 and SpVgg Sülz 07. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the local circus gave the club a billy goat as a gift. That goat in turn was given the name Hennes Weisweiler, who was the head coach of the club at the time. It was, reportedly, Weisweiler, who actually named the goat himself.
From there the goat became a much-loved part of the club. The fans and the club embraced Hennes (the goat) so highly that FC Köln changed their logo to include him. The club’s nickname is now The Billy Goats.
Animal Nicknames In Football
It’s not uncommon in any league around the world to find examples of how much animals have been culturally embraced in football. In the Premier League, there is Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are basically known as simply ‘Wolves’ to everyone, and their club crest is a graphic of a wolf.
Leicester City are called the Foxes as it’s believed that Leicestershire is where fox hunting started. Huddersfield’s nickname is The Terriers, a name that was just given to them by someone at the club. There’s also Newcastle (The Magpies) and Crystal Palace (The Eagles).
Championship side Hull are called “The Tigers”, because of their orange and black striped kit. The case is the same for Watford (The Hornets) and Barnet (The Bees) with their gold and black kits.
Sunderland are known as the Black Cats, which may be linked to an actual black cat that ran across the pitch one day and brought them good luck. There’s Mansfield who are called “The Stags” because of the creature that resides in Sherwood Forest, which the club is close to.
The list goes on and on. The most commonly found type of animal that has been adopted by football clubs is birds. Examples of such are The Robins, The Owls, The Swans, The Bluebirds, The Canaries and The Seagulls
When Animals Invade
When an animal seems to appear out of the blue and interrupt a football match, it’s basically never not funny. It is a moment of comic relief. It usually involves players standing around looking unsure of what to do, possibly not wanting to shower themselves in embarrassment in trying to chase a cat or a squirrel around the pitch.
There have been plenty of instances when animals have got involved in a football match. Much to the delight of commentators and fans alike. Here are five famous moments of animal appearances in football.
Most will probably remember the Anfield cat as he became a viral hit almost immediately via Twitter. In a match between Liverpool and Tottenham back in 2012, a cat jumped onto the Anfield pitch and hung around the Tottenham goal.
The tabby suitably amused Spurs keeper Brad Friedel and Liverpool fans were quick to change their battle cry of “Attack! Attack!” to “A cat! A cat!” Someone even set up a spoof Twitter account for the Anfield cat which got 3000 followers.
Everton’s Black Cat Stops Play
Not letting their rivals Liverpool hog the limelight with cat interruptions, there was a feline on the pitch at Everton’s home ground in 2019. The Premier League match at Goodison Park between Everton and Wolves was interrupted by a totally nonplussed black cat.
The cat just appeared on the pitch and wandered around. It checked out the goal and the sidelines and didn’t want to leave. Players just watched on, as stewards tried to wrangle the cat. The day didn’t work out for home side Everton, who lost the match 3-1.
Belgrano’s Belly Rub
In a 2014 Argentina Premier League match a cute puppy made its way onto the field of play in a match between Belgrano and Quilmes. The animated dog was loving the attention and was in search of affection from anyone.
He got some as he received a good old belly rub from one of the players before he was removed.
FC Thun’s Pine Marten
In the Swiss Super League back in 2013 there was a slightly comical moment when a pine marten interrupted the match. The critter showed some slick movements weaving around players on the pitch.
FC Zurich defender Loris Bento stepped up to give chase and caught it. But the Pine Marten fought back after being grabbed, and it took a bite of Bento’s finger and escaped. It was eventually caught and removed.
A 2006 UEFA Champions League semi-final encounter between Arsenal and La Liga side Villarreal at Highbury had unexpected visitors. The Gunners took a 1-0 win in the first leg of the tie, during which a squirrel made an appearance.
Ten minutes into the match, the squirrel appeared and headed straight towards Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann. Arsenal fans launch into chants of “There’s only one squi-rrel”.
Honorary Mention – Habibou vs Duck
Because of the Kurt Zouma cat video, the ending of the situation between Habib Habibou and a duck nearly meant that this one wasn’t going to make it onto the list. But it remains a famous incident of an animal making an appearance, and the first part of it is funny.
In 2013 Leeds United signed striker Habib Habibou, who was a relative unknown at the time of his move to England. The Yorkshire club’s fans were quick to pick up on who the striker was and planned to welcome him to Elland Road by dressing up as ducks.
Habibou was involved in an initially humorous chase of a duck during his time with Belgian club Zulte Waregem. However, what followed shocked fans as Habibou caught and threw the duck, Tom Brady style, off the pitch. Fortunately, the duck waddled off unhurt.
Players With Animal Nicknames
It is not just teams that have taken on animal-based nicknames. There are plenty of players throughout the history of the game that have also had them.
One of the most famous of all is former Real Madrid great Emilio Butragueño during his time with the La Liga club. The Spain international, who once held his country’s goalscoring record for a long time, was simply known as “The Vulture”.
Brazilian legend Garrincha was called “Little Wren”. Garrincha, one of the most talented Brazilian players besides Pele to ever pull on the famous gold shirt, won a couple of World Cups and was born with one leg longer than the other. His sister apparently gave him the nickname because of his small stature.
Ten of the Best Non-Animal-Related Nicknames
- Javier Hernandez – Chicharito (Little Pea)
- Hristo Stoichkov – the Dagger
- Carles Puyol – Tarzan
- Stuart Pearce – Psycho
- Franz Beckenbauer – The Kaiser
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Baby faced assassin
- Paul Scholes – Ginger Ninja
- Javier Zanetti – The Tractor
- Francesco Totti – Er Pupone (The Big Baby)
- David Beckham – Golden Balls
Former England keeper Peter Bonetti was called “The Cat”. The Chelsea player got his nickname from having tremendous reflexes and playing with a certain grace. He is forever regarded as one of the pioneers of goalkeepers throwing the ball out as opposed to kicking. Bonetti could throw it as far as some keeper could punt it.
Radamel Falcao, the Colombian known as “The Tiger”, and Marco van Basten who was called “The Swan” are other players with animal nicknames that come to mind. Former Netherlands international Edgar Davids was known as “Pitbull” while Ariel Ortega, who spent some time in Serie A with Sampdoria and Parma, was known as “El Burrito” (The Little Donkey).