The real story of the Eden Hazard Affair

Posted by Iain Macintosh

From the harrumphing of the newspapers and the wails of indignation on the Internet, it seems that the Eden Hazard Affair was either the most shocking incident in modern-day football, or an entirely justified act of vigilantism. In truth, it was neither. It was silly, it was stupid and, if we're being honest, it was also very funny. But the Football Association should move quickly to shut it down now.

The beauty of Hazard's kick is that it was so wonderfully inexcusable. After the 'nuances' of the Luis Suarez saga and the 'context' of the John Terry case, it's refreshing to have a story so cut and dried. He kicked a ballboy! On live television and right in front of a stand full of supporters, he kicked a ballboy in the ribs! Quite understandably, the game's founding fathers never thought this would be an issue, so there's not even a law for it. Nevertheless, Hazard will be punished, and rightly so. A six-match ban for the twin crimes of violent conduct and bringing the game in disrepute would seem a sensible conclusion to the affair.

-Video: Watch the kick
-Tyler: Hazard will face contempt
-Eden Hazard sorry

But it was just a kick. It was not, as some have rather hysterically labelled it, an 'assault.' It was a frustrated, petulant jab at a tracksuited annoyance. Had it happened on the sidelines of a park game, it would have been shrugged off as an occupational hazard for those who want to 'play with the big boys.' Hazard shouldn't have done it, of that there is no question, but it was hardly a Rodney King-style beatdown.

As for the ballboy, 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, I think he's been punished enough already. Yes, he knew what he was doing. He threw himself on the ball and wrapped himself around it, doing everything he could to prevent Hazard from restarting play. His actions have been compared to a brave soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save his unit, but that would credit him with rather more nobility than he deserves. Morgan was stupid, but so was I at 17. And so were you.

He's little more than a child and now he has to cope with the apocalyptic blast of sudden global fame, not to mention a stream of death threats. If you never did anything stupid when you were a teenager, then by all means add your bile to the queue. If not, leave him alone. Besides, Morgan's biggest concern should be that one of the commentators thought he was only 11 years old. Just imagine the stick he's currently taking from his mates.

But before the FA hand out the bans and we all move on, perhaps a few words might be had with Swansea. Morgan told his Twitter followers before the match that he was 'needed for timewasting,' and if that was his brief, he certainly fulfilled it to the letter. Swansea, naturally, denied that they had given out any such orders, but it wouldn't be the first time that a club has used its most junior members of staff to such a nefarious end. There are a number of Premier League clubs who have sent their ballboys down the tunnel when they're protecting a narrow lead. There are others who provide fresh towels to their own players so that they can dry the ball before a throw-in. Perhaps this would be a good time to quietly remind clubs of their responsibilities to fair play.

But the most important reason to swiftly shut this down and move on is that it will give us a chance to focus on something far more important -- Swansea's progression to the league cup final. Neither ballboys nor Bradford should obscure the incredible journey that this football club has been on over the last 10 years. On the brink of extinction and scrapping around at the foot of the fourth division in 2002, they are now profitable, they play in a beautiful all-seater stadium, they are 20 percent owned by the supporters and they have an elected fan on the board of directors. In a month of controversy over the cost of tickets, it's worth pointing out that the purchase of a season ticket at Swansea automatically qualifies you for membership of the trust and therefore a very small slice of ownership. On top of all of that, they play entertaining, expansive and rather successful football. They are an example for others to follow and, with a bit of luck, this cup final will be the first of many.

That should be the real story of the night. That should be what we're talking about. Not a silly kick by a silly footballer at a silly boy.

Iain Macintosh is the UK Football Correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore and the co-author of "Football Manager Stole My Life" from @backpagepress. You can follow him on Twitter at @iainmacintosh.

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