Stealing the Spotlight from Swansea City: Hazard to the Rib

I think it’s safe to say that Swansea City are a mid-table club. With a new manager who’s better known for his own days on the pitch, an attacking midfielder who’s the fourth top goal scorer in the league, and their fair share of victories and defeats this season, they’re a club that doesn’t get the attention they deserve when they deserve it.

Wednesday’s aggregate victory over Chelsea in the Football League Cup semi-final was no different. While the Swans head into the final–undefeated in the competition, mind you–the big story for football that night was about one of the men in blue. 22 year old Belgian, Eden Hazard, kicked a ball boy in the rib.

Photo credit: Carl Recine/Action Images

Just 13 minutes left in the match, and Chelsea were down by two.  Their chances of scoring at least two goals in the remaining time were slim, and their chance to advance to the final all but gone. 17 year old ball boy, Charlie Morgan, wasn’t making matters any better for the Blues.

When the ball rolled out of play, Morgan threw his entire body on the ball, and seemingly refused to give it over to Hazard. Frustrated and losing patience (and time), Hazard kicked the ball from underneath the Welsh lad in an effort to poke it out and get the ball back in play. However, he kicked more than just the ball: he kicked the kid in the rib. Hazard was then shown a straight red, the first one in his professional career, and sent off.

By now, everyone who has seen the video or the gif of the incident has made up their mind on whether Hazard maliciously attacked a “child” or if Morgan put himself in that situation by trying to help Swansea City by “#timewasting“.  Neither man was right in his actions but what they did was understandable. Not justified, but understandable.

The young, well-paid Hazard, already eliminated from the Champions League and 11 points behind Manchester United in the race for the Premier League title, needed to help his team score for a shot at some silverware this season. When you play for one of the biggest clubs on the planet, when they’ve paid 50 million dollars for you to do so, and when there are thousands of people around you who have traveled from all over to see you and your team make some magic, you owe it to all of them, including yourself, to try to win until the whistle is blown. A 17-year old kid has no place to intervene.

But your foot also has no place anywhere near his ribcage. The even younger, not nearly as well-paid Morgan, had an opportunity that any football fan would kill for. To work along side a pitch during a semi-final, no matter what the job, is exciting. Morgan, who presumably is a Swansea City fan, wanted to help his team. However, he picked one of the worst ways at the worst moment to do so. He was also old enough to know what he was doing was wrong.

The bigger story is this: Swansea City are going to their first major final. Ever. They’re going into Wembley, a stadium which any footballer dreams to play in, undefeated in the competition. They face the first  fourth division team in over 50 years to make it to the Football League Cup final, Bradford City, who overcame three Premier League teams in the process.

There will probably be another rogue ball boy and another impatient footballer. But in football, it isn’t often that we see two paragons of the term “underdog” come out on top.  It’s these matches in which we see true devotion to their respective crests.  The trophy is a bonus; what they really want is the honor of playing beautiful football.

But in case you’re looking for the video, here it is:

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