Eden Hazard has added his name to an illustrious list of Chelsea players that he may not necessarily be proud to be a part of. Following Adrian Mutu’s arrest and sacking for cocaine, Didier Drogba’s unrelentless attack to the camera when knocked out by Barcelona, John Terry’s bullet proof white cloak and hood, Jon Obi Mikel’s character assassination of Mark Clattenburg,and Ashley Cole’s brazen labelling of The F.A. as a ‘bunch of twats’, Eden Hazard has again demonstrated how Chelsea can buy quality, but they cannot buy class.
On the evidence in writing, it is difficult not to throw the metaphorical book at Hazard. With Chelsea having lost the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final at home to Swansea, they were still trailing 2-0 on aggregate with 10 mins to go of the second leg. With Swansea looking to hold out for a historic victory, a ball boy took it upon himself to waste a little time. Hazard, desperate to keep momentum going, tried to pry the ball from the ball boy, before eventually kicking at the ball under the fallen pitchside assistant. Having consulted his fellow officials, Referee Chris Foy had very little choice in issuing a red card. An automatic 3 match ban will result from Hazard’s dismissal for ‘violent conduct’. Should this be the end of it?
A lot has been made of the fact that the ball boy was not a ‘child’. It is not in my interest to debate whether the ball boy play acted, whether he had it coming, or whether he should ever be allowed in a football ground again. His actions were wrong, but he is not a professional footballer, he is a child and he is a victim. Whatever he did to incite Hazard’s reaction, Hazard is a professional footballer and thus should behave like a professional.
There is history here. Let’s consider Eric Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park in January 1995. Cantona’s incident was very clearly a lot more extreme in its violence, but also consider that Cantona’s victim was an adult. Cantona was issued with 120 hours community service (by the courts) and a 9 month ban (from The F.A.). Remember, Hazard kicked a child. Is three games really sufficient?
Outside of football, consider Tim Henman’s early career. At the age of 20, Henman made it past the first round at Wimbledon for the first time in his career, but then quite controversially was disqualified from the Grand Slam tournament for hitting a tennis ball into a ball girl in frustration. Henman became the first person ever to be disqualified from the tournament in 120 years of competition. His thoughts now? “That was my first real taste of the media and I got absolutely crucified… I kind of said to myself, ‘Shit, I’m going to have to produce some results, because this is not how I want to be remembered’.”
It is fair to say that this could be the making and maturing of a young man like Eden Hazard. Eric Cantona wasn’t a young man, but he took 9 months out of the game, and came back stronger and hungrier, leading Manchester United to a second double after a trophyless 1995 without him.
Gordon Taylor, Chairman of the P.F.A. has stated that Hazard “lost his head”. If the Players’ Football Association can’t bring himself to support you, you have to expect the worst when it comes to The F.A.’s disciplinary panel. It is all a terrible shame for a player that has been in remarkable form this season, culminating in an absolute screamer from 30 yards with his weaker foot last weekend away at Stoke.
Whatever the outcome of this saga, it is not outlandish to expect another Chelsea story to overshadow this one in the coming months. Ballboygate will be dealt with and finished, and the media will soon be hovering around Stamford Bridge for its next episode.
But I’ll leave you with this. If the ball boy wanted to be so involved at The Liberty Stadium, maybe he needed a little more nonchalance like this lad at White Hart Lane.