Hazard incident poses the question… when will Chelsea rise from the gutter
01:13 GMT, 24 January 2013
07:31 GMT, 24 January 2013
Chelsea players demanded answers from Eden Hazard in the dressing room at the Liberty Stadium – and they had every right to do so.
They are furious with the 32million man after he dragged the reputation of this club – champions of Europe remember – into the gutter again.
Forget the FA and the lengthy ban that will follow for the red card. This time Chelsea must act. They must take their own action, make an example of a player who has embarrassed and humiliated the club in front of a worldwide TV audience.
Hazard warning: The Belgian's team-mates are furious with him
This Capital One Cup semi-final second leg was beamed all over the world, across north Africa and the Middle East, as Swansea City set off in pursuit of their first major final – a fairytale date with Bradford City at Wembley next month.
They got there, but the enduring memory of last night will be of the moment Hazard lost the plot behind Gerhard Tremmel’s goal. Losing a match is one thing, booting a ball boy something else.
Chelsea’s official twitter feed – which boasts nearly 1.8 million followers around the world – was one-eyed in its immediate response. Seconds after the incident, the club’s verified account tweeted: ‘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.’
They apologised for those remarks an hour after the match. Presumably, someone at last saw some sense. But frankly, the club’s lack of self-discipline is alarming. Hazard’s flash of anger is a new low, a despicable act that has brought the great name of Chelsea into disrepute again.
Foolish: Hazard reacted when the ball boy tried to keep the ball away from him
What a year it’s been for them. Earlier in the season, John Terry was banned for four games by the FA after they found him guilty of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand last season.
In October, the club accused referee Mark Clattenburg of racially insulting John Mikel Obi after their fiery 3-2 defeat by Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League. Clattenburg was cleared by an FA investigation.
This isn’t conduct becoming of European champions, a club with so much positive recent history on its side after winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups, as well as the Champions League, during the Roman Abramovich era.
With fans revolting against the regime of interim manager Rafa Benitez following some indifferent results, Chelsea’s billionaire owner returned early from St Barts to sort out the mess at Stamford Bridge last weekend. But he will struggle to know where to start after this.
We've been here before: The club reported Clattenburg (left) to the FA
Hazard has to be accountable for his actions, sent off by referee Chris Foy after this extraordinary incident late in the second half. Charlie Morgan, son of Swansea director Martin Morgan, certainly played his part in an incredible moment.
Morgan started the day by boasting to his 11 twitter followers that ‘the king of all ball boys was back for one final appearance’. By 10.30pm more than 50,000 were following him and the comments from football fans around the world were a mixture of sympathy and abuse.
Earlier in the day he had tweeted that he intended to waste time to help Swansea hold on to their precious 2-0 advantage from the first leg. With about 12 minutes left, he did just that, holding on to the ball and refusing Hazard’s requests to return it quickly for a Swansea goal-kick.
No choice: Chris Foy gives Hazard his marching orders
Hazard could have remonstrated with the officials so that they added on time. Instead, what happened next should never be seen on a football field again, a shocking and shameful act by one of the most high-profile names in the game. Booting a ball boy in the ribs was unforgivable. Initially, Hazard seemed unrepentant as he left the field, but Chelsea were left frantically trying to defuse the volatile situation.
Young Morgan, after receiving treatment on his ribs in the Swansea dressing room, was eventually taken to see Hazard. The winger apologised for losing control, but that will not be enough to get him off the hook, with the FA sure to throw the book at him.
His team-mates have had Hazard down as flash and flighty for a while, and it will take time to repair the damage in the dressing room. After this, it will take even longer to restore Chelsea’s battered image around the world.