How the personal brands of footballers have changed.
We’ll shift away from cat abuse next week, we promise.
But after last week’s espresso, it’d be remiss not to mention Kurt Zouma’s brutal attack on his cats and consequent fall from grace. At time of writing, the footballer’s been hit by a £250,000 fine while two sponsors have withdrawn support from West Ham.
From the 1990s to 2010s, we expected less from the likes of Brands Beckham, Henry and Ronaldo. Well, we expected a lot: affairs, patterned sarongs, matching outfits, lavish 30-bed mansions and a new hairstyle every other month, but their power was in their glamour. Now, there’s a shift towards morality. Your platform’s not a display stand for a new aftershave, it’s a showcase for your principles. What does your footballer stand for?
Look at Marcus Rashford’s campaign for school meals, Harry Kane’s rainbow-coloured armbands, Raheem Sterling’s anti-racism campaign or Gareth Southgate championing his players’ mental health, to mention just a few. Yes, they’re still super-wealthy and flawed human beings like the rest of us, but a moral standard is expected from them.
You can even chart the shift in TV dramas. 20 years ago last month, Footballers’ Wives strutted onto our screens, revelling in the football world’s scandal and extravagance. Today, it’s Ted Lasso, centring on a folksy, big-hearted manager who genuinely cares for his team.
There would never have been a good time for a West Ham defender to dropkick a cat. But in an age of social media and greater moral scrutiny, it’s even harder to see a way back for Zouma. Even if West Ham keeps him on, his name will be forever associated with that video.
For better or worse, we expect a lot more from the people who entertain us.