Shameful scenes shocked football yet again last night when a 17-year-old ballboy was kicked in the ribs by Chelsea striker Eden Hazard during a tussle for the ball.
The £170,000-a-week Chelsea star was trying to regain the ball when it went out of play late in the game with the Premier League club facing a League Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Swansea.
He apparently became infuriated when the boy fell to the ground, landed on the ball and smothered it – costing Chelsea valuable seconds.
Hazard tried to kick it from under the teenager but caught him in the ribs before he finally grabbed the ball and ran off.
Flashpoint: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard appears to kick the teenage ballboy who is lying on the ball
Grabbed: Hazard reaches for the football as the ballboy writhes on the ground
The moment: Chelsea striker Eden Hazard kicks a ballboy in the ribs during a match against Swansea City
The 22-year-old Belgian footballer, who joined the club for £32million last summer from French side Lille, was sent off after the incident at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium.
Hazard – whose red card came in the 80th minute of the second leg of the semi-final, which finished 0-0 - walked off the pitch. Several Chelsea players went to tend to the ballboy, left holding his ribs.
South Wales Police are investigating the incident – a matter they are treating ‘very seriously’. The ballboy was named as Charlie Morgan, 17, the son of Swansea director Martin Morgan.
Charlie, posting on Twitter before the game, said: ‘The king of all ballboys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting.’
The college student was examined by medics in an ambulance but was not seriously injured. He added: ‘Haven’t been doing it this season been ask to come back to run them because the person can’t come in cos of the snow.’
Anger: Swansea’s Ashley Williams (centre) is held back as he tries to confront Eden Hazard (off camera)
Sending off: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (#17) receives a red card from referee Chris Foy for violent conduct
CHELSEA AND SWANSEA REACTION
- ‘I think I kicked the ball and not the boy. I apologise’
Eden Hazard, Chelsea striker
- ‘They’ve both made a mistake. He was wasting time, Hazard was frustrated’
Rafael Benitez, Chelsea manager
- ‘I saw Hazard kick him in the ribs. You can’t do that to a little boy’
Ashley Williams, Swansea captain
- ‘When Hazard sees the images I think he will regret it’
Michael Laudrup, Swansea manager
But they reacted angrily when referee Chris Foy produced a red card. The Chelsea players claimed Hazard had tried to get the ball loose to restart play as the clock ticked down.
Hazard told Chelsea TV after the game: ‘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 ballboy 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.’
The cup tie marked an impressive victory for Swansea, who will go to Wembley for the first cup final in their 100-year history after winning 2-0 on aggregate thanks to their first-leg success.
Swansea captain Ashley Williams, who was close to the incident, said afterwards: ‘Demba Ba said he was holding on to the ball, but I saw him (Hazard) kick him in the ribs. You can’t do that to a little boy.’
Helping hand: Chelsea’s Demba Ba (right) checks on the ballboy after he had clashed with Eden Hazard
The Swans’ manager Michael Laudrup said he expected Hazard would regret the incident when he views it on TV.
‘I saw it from a very big distance from the bench,’ he said. ‘I’ve since seen it after the game. Hazard is a great player. When he sees the images I think he will regret it.’
‘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’
Laudrup denied the club had told the ballboys to hold onto the ball when it went out of play.
‘No, no. Definitely not,’ he said. ‘I think he was pushed and on top of the ball. I can understand all the frustrations when you are behind.’
However, former Chelsea and England manager Glenn Hoddle sympathised with Hazard and claimed managers often instruct ballboys to waste time.
He told Sky Sports: ‘As a manager, if you’ve got ballboys, you will tell people instructing the ballboys that if you’re winning the game, don’t give the ball back quickly.’
On the floor: The ballboy, seen right on his Twitter page, was left in pain on the side of the pitch (left)
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said that Hazard’s actions would be dealt with internally by the club.
He said: ‘The ballboy has been in the dressing room talking with Hazard and they have apologised to each other. They know they were wrong, that’s it.
‘The ballboy has been in the dressing room talking with Hazard and they have apologised to each other. They know they were wrong, that’s it. He was wasting time, Hazard was frustrated, he wanted to get the ball back quickly so they have both made a mistake and we cannot say too much’
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez
‘He was wasting time, Hazard was frustrated, he wanted to get the ball back quickly so they have both made a mistake and we cannot say too much.
‘We will deal with this internally. We will analyse and wait to see if there is any action from the FA.’
But Benitez reacted angrily when he was accused of attempting to condone Hazard’s actions.
‘I do not know what you expect from me,’ he said. ‘Do you think we are not disappointed with the situation, that we do not regret what happened? Do you think they have not apologised? They have done it so what can we do now? Do you want to change things? We cannot.’
In pain: A ballboy (second right) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Hazard
Twitter users reacted strongly to the incident, branding Hazard a ‘disgrace’, ‘scumbag’ and ‘animal’. Footballers Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler also waded into the debate.
Stoke City striker Owen said on Twitter: ‘I’ve seen it all now! What a joke’. Former Liverpool footballer Fowler added: ‘Right decision even though ballboy milked it.’
‘South Wales Police is aware of the incident involving a ballboy at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. We are making arrangements for him to be interviewed. South Wales Police takes such matters very seriously’
South Wales Police Chief Superintendent Josh Jones
CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan said: ‘Eden Hazard sent off for deliberately kicking a ballboy in the ribs. Yes, you read right. Unbelievable!’
And Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand added: ‘I’m not the authorities but in my eyes its a red for all those asking. Us players do put refs in bad spots at times unfortunately!’
But former Derby County footballer Robbie Savage, now a BBC pundit, said: ‘Still can’t believe he got sent off for that, incredible!! If the ballboy does his job properly that doesn’t happen.’
Chelsea’s official Twitter feed tried to make light of the incident, saying: ‘Has football gone mad? Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ballboy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it. #CFC’
The account later added: ‘A hugely disappointing performance topped by a bizarre red card.’
Hurt: The ballboy (centre) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Eden Hazard
But a tweet after the game said: ‘Apologies for earlier ballboy tweet. Hazard has now met with the ballboy and has said sorry. #CFC’
‘Has football gone mad? Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ballboy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it. #CFC’
Chelsea official Twitter feed
MailOnline understands Hazard apologised to the boy after the match in Chelsea’s dressing room.
South Wales Police Chief Superintendent Josh Jones said: ‘South Wales Police is aware of the incident involving a ballboy at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea tonight (Wednesday).
‘We are making arrangements for him to be interviewed. South Wales Police takes such matters very seriously.’
Swansea defender Dwight Tiendalli had to be ushered away from Hazard as he tried to challenge him after the match.
Striker: Eden Hazard is pictured earlier in the match (left) and winning an award in Paris in May 2011 (right)
He said: ‘He shouldn’t have done it as he’s a little boy and it made me angry. It was crazy, I’ve never seen anything like that before.
‘He shouldn’t have done it as he’s a little boy and it made me angry. It was crazy, I’ve never seen anything like that before. I could see the boy had the ball and Hazard was trying to take it and there was a struggle’
Swansea defender Dwight Tiendalli
‘I could see the boy had the ball and Hazard was trying to take it and there was a struggle. It was stupid and I think he (Hazard) knows he did something wrong.
‘He’s only human and people make mistakes but he shouldn’t have done it.’
A Swansea City spokesman said: ‘South Wales Police interviewed the 17-year-old ballboy with his father after the game and neither wished to press any charges.
‘It was an unfortunate incident which both parties regret being involved in. Chelsea invited the ballboy into the dressing room after the game to shake hands with Hazard and both parties apologised.
‘The ballboy was very impressed with the welcome he received from the Chelsea players and as far as both clubs and individuals are concerned the matter is closed.’