Hazard brings fresh shame on disgraced Chelsea

The 22-year-old winger was sensationally sent off for kicking a Swansea ball boy on Wednesday evening, embroiling the Stamford Bridge club in yet more controversy
By Tom J Doyle

They just do not get it.

Despite Swansea reaching their first ever cup final on a glorious night for the fans and Michael Laudrup's squad, the headlines - as always - focused on Chelsea.

With 10 minutes remaining of the two sides' Capital One Cup semi-final tie and the score poised at 0-0, Rafa Benitez's side were heading for a frustrating exit after the shock 2-0 home defeat to the Swans in the first leg.

It should have been the night we all applauded the work of Laudrup and his squad, overcoming the wealth and skill of Chelsea with a strong footballing philosophy based on self belief and a dedication to entertaining their fans.





And then Eden Hazard kicked a ball boy and got sent off. Yes, Premier League superstar Eden Hazard kicked 17-year-old Charlie Morgan in the ribs while trying to get the ball back from him.

Now Chelsea are no strangers to controversy - they have lurched from one PR disaster to the next with increasing regularity this season but this is something else entirely.

The arbitrary sacking of managers (most recently Roberto Di Matteo just five months after winning the Champions League); the John Terry court case and FA ban; a steward injured during the 3-2 Manchester United defeat; the Mark Clattenburg witch-hunt... the Hazard incident is just the latest in a long, long list of tiresome tales from the Bridge.

You have to wonder sometimes whether they enjoy feeding on the negative attention as the famous lion on their crest would, or whether everybody at the club - PR gurus and players alike - simply see the world through a completely different lens to the rest of us.

Of course, if you read their official Tweets - "‏@chelseafc: Has football gone mad? Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ball boy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it. #CFC" - it seems they are firmly in the latter camp. (The club have since apologised for the Tweet, but just who is running the show on their social media pages?)

Charlie Morgan - who now has 38,000 Twitter followers and rising - appears to leave us in no doubt as to his tactics for the evening, with a Tweet before the game stating: "The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance ‪#needed‬ ‪#for‬ ‪#timewasting‬".

Despite Morgan's mischievous behaviour, there is simply no way a Premier League club - the Champions League holders no less - can defend one of their players kicking a ball boy.

Take some time to read that last sentence aloud - it is even more ridiculous having to write it.

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Meanwhile, Swans manager Michael Laudrup was diplomatic but left us in no doubt: "I can understand Hazard's frustration... but there are things you can never do," he told Sky Sports. 'Don't kick ballboys', it now seems, should have perhaps been stipulated in the talented Belgian's contract before his £35 million move from Lille.

Hazard told Chelsea TV: "The boy put his whole body onto the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball and I think I kicked the ball and not the boy. I apologise.

"The ball boy came in the changing room and we had a quick chat and I apologised and the boy apologised as well, and it is over. Sorry."

However, the fact remains that a professional footballer should be able to restrain himself in such incidents.

It makes no difference if a player is on £1,000 or £150,000 a week, or whether the ball boy is 17 or seven - for Hazard to react in such a way has brought ridicule to his club, and most probably further punishment to himself.

The forward's actions on Wednesday night should have shocked, but sadly they seem less strange - understandable, almost - given that they occurred in a Chelsea shirt.

Out of the Champions League in the group stages, out of the Capital One Cup, and 11 points behind league leaders Manchester United, Chelsea's season is unravelling fast.

Of course, the chairman cannot really be blamed for a petulent player's reactions, but the way in which he dispenses with managers and players (just look at Florent Malouda rotting in the Under-21 squad) creates a dangerous system which destabilises the club from the top down.

Unease and impetuousness have trickled down and spilled out from the boardroom, into the stands and onto the pitch, creating a toxic atmosphere for fans, players, and even now ball boys.

It is clear that whatever happens from now until the end of the season, Chelsea have a long way to go to restore their tarnished reputation. Defeats such as these will come and go, but the stench of shame will linger a lot longer.

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