Saturday 20 December 2014

Alan Smith: Let's not vilify Hazard – ballboy milked situation for all it was worth

Alan Smith

Published 25/01/2013 | 05:00

So, let's not get carried away by talking about a violent assault that once again drags the game's reputation into the gutter. It was nothing of the sort. It was more an unwise attempt by a frustrated footballer to quickly retrieve the ball so that play could continue.

With about 10 minutes left, Chelsea needed two goals. Hazard was simply reacting to the increasingly desperate situation. You could argue, in fact, that it was the biggest show of urgency his team had displayed all night. A worryingly lacklustre performance must have worried Rafael Benitez when the prospect of a Wembley final should have ensured a bit more fight.

But back to one of the most extraordinary episodes I have seen in football. Commentating for Sky, I could not believe my eyes when Charlie Morgan decided to lie on top of the ball in a silly attempt to waste time. It got even more bizarre when, following Hazard's intervention, the lad, clutching his side, looked pleadingly across to the referee.

His face creased in pain, the 17-year-old looked like he was appealing for a foul in the way many players do when they have not been touched or hurt. For that brief moment, it was as if he thought he was part of the match.

But this is where today's footballers must take a large share of the blame. Charlie was only doing what so many kids do on the parks every weekend. He was exaggerating the situation, feigning injury if you like, because he had seen his heroes on TV behave exactly the same.

Whether they like it or not, today's stars are a huge influence on the next generation. Their actions are mimicked in the finest detail.

So, when the son of a Swansea director found himself on the end of a questionable 'tackle', he milked the situation for all it was worth.

My guess is he was more shocked than anything. I do not think he expected a famous footballer to get involved in the way that he did.

Mind you, he would be entitled to expect that too. Because no matter how pressing the situation had become for Chelsea, Hazard should not have tried so forcefully to retrieve the ball.

Like all of us, he would have done this countless times in training when a team-mate fell on the ball. It is just a bit of a laugh, a standard reaction to someone messing about. But we are not talking about a team-mate here. We are talking about a youngster who overstepped the mark. There is an awfully big difference between the two and Hazard, I am sure, realises that now.

But let's not go overboard. For goodness sake, let's not vilify a player for simply kicking a ball from underneath a ballboy. That is all it was. Nothing more.

Nothing to be getting overly excited about, that is for sure, even if it was highly unusual. Funny as well. You have got to admit that. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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