Young Frenchman Kurt Zouma speaks very good English. Some of the best English of any of our non-native English speakers, in fact. But as anyone who's ever spoken a second language can tell you -- and there are quite a few us on this blog, even -- mistakes do happen, even after many years of speaking a new language. It's easy to use a wrong word, to make a small error in grammar or syntax or use the wrong word in the wrong context, etc. And that's exactly what happened when Zouma used the verb "to cheat" to describe what Diego Costa does on the pitch in an interview with beIN Sport following our win over Arsenal on Saturday.
"No, we're not surprised [at the reactions of Arsenal players] because we know Diego. Everyone knows Diego and he likes to cheat a lot and put the opponent out of his game."
If you watch the video, you will see that Zouma says all this with a smile, or at the very least, in a light-hearted manner. There's no malice, there's no intent to slander or name-call. Zouma quite clearly means that Diego is a clever, tricky, sneaky player who will use anything and everything to try to gain advantage. (And that everybody knows this, which is also true.) But he doesn't mean any of that in an insulting way. He's seen the Chelsea striker's brand of the dark arts during matches, and probably even experienced them first-hand in practice. Yes, Diego is a right ol' bastard, but he's our bastard and the fans and his teammates love him for it.
"That happened in the game but he's really a nice guy in real life. We're proud to have him, like the other players, and we're happy to win this game today."
Of course, none of that common sense stopped the tabloids and the rest of the English media to run ... hog-wild. But there is no TV drama here. There is just a young kid choosing a slightly wrong word in a second language to describe his teammate and friend.
Sorry for any confusion, English is not my first language & I did not mean to accuse anyone of cheating. Simply to say ....— Kurt Zouma (@KurtZouma) September 21, 2015
....Diego is a player who puts pressure on his opponents & who I have huge respect for.— Kurt Zouma (@KurtZouma) September 21, 2015
How scandalous! Ending a sentence with a preposition?! Using 'who' instead of 'whom'?! Proper English Grammar Daily will have a field day with this!
"It's a bit harsh to take literally the words of a young player speaking in his second language immediately after a game," added a Chelsea spokesman.
"Kurt is deeply upset that his words have been used to attack a team-mate and a friend."
I've yet to see a single, even remotely bad comment from a Chelsea player about Diego Costa as a teammate or as a gameday warrior. He is who he is, and we all love him for it.