Being a ball boy has its occupational hazards
By Dan Wheeler
So now we know. Being a ball boy at a football match can be a danger to your health. Well if not your overall health, to your ribcage certainly. And if a “danger” might be too strong a word, let us settle on hazard. Or rather Hazard.
Eden Hazard’s sending off for kicking out at a 17-year-old ball boy during Chelsea’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Swansea is the latest unedifying episode that is sure to add more gravitas to the argument that football at the highest level in this country continues to teeter ever more unsteadily on the edge of moral bankruptcy.
The incident, for which Hazard was inevitably sent off for, came late into Wednesday’s game, with Swansea inching towards the final at Wembley. The context of the occasion has an obvious relevance to the piece: Swansea have never won a major trophy in their history and were desperate. Chelsea, who only have the cups these days to aim for, were also desperate and ,given the whole managerial situation at the club, perhaps even more so.
But desperation, however acute, cannot excuse Hazard’s behaviour. While it is undoubtedly the case that the ball boy, Charlie Morgan, was doing his best to kill a few extra seconds by rolling around on the ball keeping it away from the Chelsea player whatever possessed Hazard to lunge in with his right boot is utterly incomprehensible. Brainless does not even come close.
Although he did make several attempts to retrieve the ball from under the teenager’s stomach with his hands, deciding to kick it blindly from underneath him was really quite a strategy - one from the Wile E Coyote handbook, certainly. Morgan, at 17, may be stretching the term “boy” to its limit but he is, officially, still a kid. You would like to think things would have been different had a seven-year-old rather than a 17-year-old been playing Richie McCaw with the ball but, worryingly, it did not look like Hazard took time to think about exactly who he has up against - and that is the most worrying aspect about it all.
Hazard, naturally, has apologized publicly and said he and Morgan have met up and cleared the air. Sadly no details were given about whether Morgan asked for his autograph. Then again, he sort of has one already.
Hazard will now miss three games as his immediate penalty, which may yet be extended by the Football Association.
Hazard has had his supporters in all of this as you might expect. However quite what he thinks about having Joey Barton in his corner shouting about how the only crime committed was the fact that Hazard had “not kicked him hard enough” would be interesting. Barton, whose last act in English football you may remember was to kick Sergio Aguero as he was being sent off, went on to clarify his comments saying he was not advocating the kicking of ball boys. Cheers Joey. I am sure Eden is grateful.
There is sympathy for Hazard elsewhere too, with one former Chelsea player calling Morgan’s behaviour “disgraceful”. I suppose those of a Chelsea bias would be prone to inevitable bouts of myopia but that sort of comment sounds idiotic at best and petty, even callous, at worse. This is an adult involved with a minor, remember, (however close his age may push the legal semantics) and for a grown man to act the way Hazard did, albeit in the heat of the moment, is bad enough, but for other grown men to try and lay the blame on a kid is shameful.
Chelsea’s official twitter feed pontificated that Hazard’s treatment had proved the game had gone mad. Their sentiment was right - it has - but they need to look at the behaviour of one of their employees for the real reason for it.