Eden Hazard kicks ball boy for wasting time
(CNN) — Seventy eight years after Gene Sarazen’s albatross at The Masters became golf’s “shot heard around the world” football has its own version, except there was no glory in Eden Hazard’s kick heard all over the globe. And it has left another dent in the sport’s battered image.
When Sarazen holed his second shot, over water at the par-five 15th, it helped him win the Augusta title and launch the tournament’s global appeal.
In 1935, the news of Sarazen’s achievement would have traveled far slower than the seconds it took Hazard’s moment of madness to become a social media talking point across the planet.
Chelsea were trailing in their League Cup, generally regarded as the third competition in English soccer, semifinal second leg in Swansea, with less than 15 minutes remaining.
The ball went out of play and, when a ball boy took his time retrieving it, Hazard went to fetch it himself. When the boy fell on the ball, the player tried to kick it out from under him and was sent off for violent conduct.
More astonishing than the incident itself was the debate about whether or not Hazard had done anything wrong. Many people tried to defend the Belgian international.
Let’s quickly put that to bed. The 17-year-old ball boy was a child, a volunteer helping out at a professional football match, and he was kicked by an adult player. Hazard was wrong.
Now, that’s not the same as saying there were no mitigating circumstances because there were. The ball boy later admitted he was wasting time and that was clear to see at the time.
Hazard was anxious to resume play with Chelsea’s place in the competition under threat. He aimed his kick at the ball not the person. The teenager isn’t a young child and wasn’t badly injured.
Those are the only reasons why Hazard isn’t facing the same nine-month ban given to Manchester United icon Eric Cantona who famously launched himself at an abusive fan with a kung fu-style kick in 1995.
Cantona’s assault was deliberate and intended to harm whereas Hazard was merely trying to get the ball back. However, Cantona attacked another adult and after severe provocation. Hazard’s impatience led to him kicking a minor and if the child had been seriously hurt the police would be investigating.
Chelsea inflamed the situation when the club’s official Twitter account immediately defended the player, asking “Has football gone mad?” before later removing the tweet and apologizing.
Well, maybe it has but only because mega rich clubs seem to have lost touch with reality and give the impression they don’t need to follow the rules of common decency that the rest of us try to live by.
What is a shame for the London team is that any adulation and respect which stemmed from their fairy tale European Champions League triumph last season has disappeared because of the defensive way they have reacted to criticism since then.
Chelsea’s handling of the John Terry racism case and the accusations aimed at referee Mark Clattenburg was poor.
A possible persecution complex appears to be a culture at the club. The Terry and Clattenburg incidents happened before Rafael Benitez’s arrival and yet the new manager has adopted the same mindset.
When a simple apology and show of humility would have killed the controversy, a complaint about a “Big Brother society” perpetuates the impression that Chelsea will only ever point fingers and never accept blame.
In this case, good sense did eventually prevail with reports claiming the boy was taken to Chelsea’s dressing room, warmly greeted and he exchanged apologies with Hazard. South Wales police have confirmed they are not pursuing the matter.