Wednesday nights game between Swansea and Chelsea should be remembered for the right reasons instead of a moment of madness for Eden Hazard. But instead of the press focusing on a fantastic achievement for the Welsh side, in reaching their first ever cup final in 100 years by beating the favourites for the trophy over two legs, they are more concerned about the tussle between Belgium ace Hazard and a Swansea ball boy called Charlie Morgan. The tussle, which resulted in Hazard apparently kicking Charlie in the ribs as he lay on the floor and then sent off, has reached fever pitch with many coming out and damning Hazard for what they say is a moment of madness. Even his own manager, the much-loved Rafa Benetiz admitted after the game his star player was wrong to react the way that he did and deserved his dismissal. But others have added their voice saying the footage doesn’t make the ball boy look totally blameless in this incident and perhaps even guilty himself of antagonizing the Chelsea midfielder. So who is really to blame?
In the modern game, professional footballers are seen as role models, someone to aspire to be a and Hazard is a good example of this. Coming from a strong footballing family, with his dad a former player and his brother also currently playing, Hazard took a tough decision as a 16-year-old to turn down some of Europe’s biggest clubs in favour of a move to French side Lille. His reasoning was simple – he wanted to develop as a footballer first, in a system that would nurture his talent and allow him to grow over time, and not be forced to be accountable immediately as many of Europe’s elite demand. He also wanted to remain fairly close to home in Belgium so a move to northern France made sense for a variety of reasons. But Hazard worked hard to improve and prove to his new club that he was worthy of first team football which he managed to do so, becoming one of the most exciting prospects ever to come out of Belgian football. With his progress complete and with Hazard now established in the first teams of both Lille and Belgium, he finally moved to the big leagues joining Chelsea this summer for £32 million.
As a model professional who wants to win every game, Wednesday nights incident is surprising to say the least as that is not the type of player that Hazard is. However even the players we suspect to be saints can turn out to be sinners and Hazard has no defense in this case as everything was captured on film. With less than ten minutes left in a tense second leg with Chelsea needing two goals to take the match to extra time, frustration and anger looks to have gotten the best of Hazard. A the ball went out of play, Hazard raced over to try and retrieve the ball to get the game restarted as quickly as possible. As he did so, he collided with the ball boy sending him to the ground and on top of the ball. delaying the play further. Hazard then attempted to retrieve the ball, now stuck under Morgan by first trying to grab it with his hands then using his foot. It was his latter action that earned him a dismissal as he appeared to aim a kick at the midriff of the ball boy sending him rolling away in agony. What Hazard was trying to do was toe poke the ball out from under Morgan, making his follow through look even worse, and leaving the referee, Chris Foy no alternative but to show him a straight red card.
The Ball boy
Ball boys are employed by football clubs to do one thing – return the ball to the pitch/players when it goes out of play. Whether it be a shot gone wide or a clearance into the crowd, the ball boy is tasked to get the ball back as quickly as possible to maintain the natural flow of the game. Most ball boys are fans of the club they represent and therefore feel connected to the team and the events on the pitch. For 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, the ball boy at the centre of this incident, his connection with Swansea goes deeper than just the ordinary fan, with his dad sitting on the board of directors at the club. His actions on that night will surely disappoint his father however as he watched his son deliberately delay the restart of the game by appearing to shield the ball from Hazard as he lay on the ground. Granted Hazard should not have used his feet to try to retrieve the ball but at the same time, Morgan’s reaction was over dramatic and too severe to be genuine. Why a 17-year-old is acting as a ball boy in the first place is a good question to be asked, especially as most ball boys are between the ages of 8 and 14 but his father’s position at the club may be the answer to this. Morgan junior should be disappointed at his performance on Wednesday, after his five minutes of fame die down but perhaps Swansea should be looking at whether its best not to let him act as a ball boy again for the club.
After the game, twitter exploded with comments from players and fans, all keen to share their views. Most backed up Hazard’s dismissal as it followed the rules of the game but some, whilst agreeing with the decision, also backed up Hazard and criticized Morgan for his behaviour. Both Phil Neville and Rio Ferdinand agreed that it should be a red card, tweeting “You can’t kick the ball boy that’s not right” and “I’m not the authorities but in my eyes it’s a red” respectively. However former England striker Michael Owen saw the incident different tweeting ” Both the kid and Hazard were in the wrong. Not having Hazard tried to hurt him though. He just tried to toe poke it out of his grip.”. Joey Baron also took to twitter to express his anger but surprisingly supported Hazard’s actions tweeting” Hazard’s only crime is he hasn’t kicked him hard enough”. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup commented after the game in the post match interview saying that he believed that Hazard should not have done what he did, but as a former player he understands that the pressure of the match could have led to Hazard reacting as he did but he is likely to regret his actions when he looks back on the day.
Hazard will likely face up to a three match suspension and potentially further disciplinary action by his club but the police will not be pressing formal charges after Morgan and his father refused to take the incident further. Both the player and Morgan met up after the match and apologized, both realizing that they made a mistake. It was an unsavoury incident to end a thrilling match in which Swansea made history by reaching the cup final but unfortunately it will go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons after the Hazard/Morgan clash.
To see the incident, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT5ogjqgghI