No excuse for lashing out

18:37, Jan 24 2013

Question: When, as a public figure whose performance in your chosen field can be seen globally, is it permissible to allow your frustration to get the better of you? How about "never"?

An incident in a football match yesterday has captured the global imagination in the last 24 hours, and made that question particularly pertinent.

If you've watched a TV news bulletin since yesterday morning, chances are you've seen the incident. It happened in the second leg of a semi-final in England's League Cup, between Chelsea and Swansea City.

The Welsh club had pulled off an unexpected 2-0 away win against their more fancied London opponents in the first leg and went into the tie, at home, on the verge of a famous upset and a final encounter against lowly Bradford City.

With the match in its last quarter and the Londoners still trailing by two goals, the incident I'm referring to took place. The ball had run beyond Swansea's goalline for a goalkick, and been picked up by a ballboy, 17-year-old Charlie Morgan. Chelsea's Belgian star, Eden Hazard, raced over to Morgan, clearly keen to get the ball to the Swansea goalkeeper so the goalkick could be taken and the ball be put back into play.

It's not entirely obvious why he felt the need to race through and try and grab the ball, but he may have felt precious seconds could be wasted if the ballboy dawdled.


Exactly what happened next isn't clear but the footage certainly shows Morgan ending up on the ground, with the ball under his body. It has been widely alleged he was trying to prevent Hazard getting to the ball.

After that something of a tussle developed and Hazard, possibly in an attempt to get the ball, ended up kicking Morgan. How hard he actually kicked him and whether or not it was intentional isn't clear, though Morgan certainly came across as injured.

It's an incident that has sparked plenty of debate, but the bottom line is this. The referee's decision to send Hazard off was the only one he could conceivably make. Even if Morgan, plainly a follower of the home team, was intentionally keeping him from getting to the ball, there can simply be no circumstances in which it's acceptable for a high profile professional sportsman to act in that way.

If Morgan had been time-wasting, the referee was quite capable of observing as much and adding on time, perhaps with a finger-wagging at the youngster. Hazard could have appealed to him. Instead he let his emotions get the better of him, something he should never have done, and had to see red, also possibly ending his side's slim chances. Not a good luck.

The Timaru Herald