Once again Chelsea are in a defensive PR posture as a red card for Eden Hazard for grappling and allegedly kicking a Swansea City ball boy becomes the story.
To the anger of many of my followers on Twitter I believe that Eden Hazard was in the wrong during this incident, which is likely to see further FA action (because they can). Before you judge me I would like to objectively lay out my argument.
Like many Chelsea fans initially I was outraged and astounded when Hazard was shown the red card, but on reflection having seen the replays Eden Hazard should not have gotten involved. In the first place.
The ball boy is designed to be an invisible tool to help the smooth running of the game, in this instance Chelsea were chasing the game and the need to get the ball back in play was great from our perspective.
It is not the place of the ball boy to assist either side or have any impact on the play. Looking at the video it is unclear whether the ball boy originally clung to the ball deliberately and was employing a stalling tactic or did not see Hazard coming and was taken by surprise.
Here is a video of what happened so I will let you decide.
For the record my opinion is that Hazard went to retrieve the ball and made a genuine attempt to kick the ball, but may have made contact with the ball boy. I cannot see any malice on behalf of Hazard just a genuine but misguided attempt to get the ball back in play.
Social Media Balls Up
The ball boy in question has already become a Twitter sensation and his followers have quickly shot up by nearly 50,000 (at time of writing), both good and bad I am sure he will gain plenty of notoriety in the next few days.
This raises the question of his tweets before the game, in isolation his tweets paint the picture of a conspiracy; however it would be naïve to take them as more than an attempt at banter.
I mean how often does a ball boy make the headlines? The answer is almost never, so for those looking for meaning in the below you are clutching at straws.
There is no way tonight could have been predicted, or that the ball boy could have expected to have been involved in the game.
Ball Boy Actions Irrelevant
So to the meat of the argument, it is possible that the ball boy got ideas above his station and tried to delay the game but his intent is irrelevant.
Although the difference in age is small as the ball boy is 17 the responsibility to avoid what has happened lies with Eden Hazard.
He should never have put himself in that situation, even if the ball boy was in the wrong, Hazard should have refrained from a confrontation and let the referee/officials deal with the situation.
That said I do not think there was any malice in his actions, just a passionate player trying to drive his team forward in a tough spot and reacting in the heat of the moment. No good was going to come from tussling with a ball boy.
If this incident had happened with a player of the opposition I would back Hazard 100% but it didn’t so whilst my view is not popular objectively if Wayne Rooney had done this everyone would back my view.
This situation is a PR disaster, the media will blow this out of all proportion and make Hazard out to be a vindictive bully (which is totally unfair and untrue).
The big winner in this situation is the ball boy who despite a bruise has gained some notoriety (albeit for crying) and had a positive impact on the game for his team. How many other ball boys can claim to have played a part in getting their team to a Wembley final?
Hazard will face a ban, but should the FA increase his punishment?
The FA will face pressure to act but I think this is unnecessary, Hazard was naïve but he had no malice in his actions.
All in all a terribly frustrating day!
Update 24th Jan 2013 00:00 GMT - Apparently Hazard has apologised to the ball boy and he has apologised back which is a positive development, hopefully this will be the end of the matter. Source – Chelsea FC