“I don’t want to go to Chelsea” was a song from the eighties by Elvis Costello, but it may soon be an anthem for professional footballers, as despite the money they may receive it is club where players appear to sink to a standard of behaviour that means they will be remembered more for their actions, than their football. Spoilt little boys are nearly always judged by their actions.
Chelsea’s charge sheet in recent years does not make good reading. In February 2011 Ashley Cole shoots and wounds a student on work experience at Chelsea’s training ground while he was “larking about” with an air rifle. In September 2012 John Terry is banned for four matches by the FA and fined £220,000 after he was found guilty of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. An incident for which Terry was cleared at Westminster magistrates court. In October 2012 Chelsea players accuse referee Mark Clattenburg of using “inappropriate language” towards John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata. Later Chelsea are forced to admit “regret” at their handling of the case when the referee is cleared. InDecember 2012 the FA ban Mikel for three games and fine him £60,000 after he admits using threatening words in the referee’s room after the game with Manchester United.
Now in January 2013 we have Eden Hazard kicking a ball boy, for which he received quite rightly a red card. It matters not as many apologists for Hazard state, that the ball boy Charlie Morgan is the son of Swansea City director Martin Morgan himself worth GBP42million and may have been blatantly guilty of gamesmanship in holding onto the ball, and possibly milking the extent of his pain. The clear and unarguable fact is a professional footballer should not be kicking a ball boy!
Hazard will be fined, but what damage will that do to his life and how much will it hurt him personally? Any fine should be given to a young team for their development and maybe Hazard should be forced to be a ball boy for their games, to learn some humility.
There can be no possible excuse for his actions, and it is time that footballers learned their place in society. Yes they are human beings, yes they may lose their tempers, they may get provoked, but the reason they earn as much as they do is not just because they are talented entertainers, it is because whether they like it or not, they are heroes to many, and with that heroic status comes a responsibility. A responsibility to behave off the pitch and often on it as well, in a way that is inspiring to many young children. Whether you like it or not, whether you are comfortable with it or not, when you signed up to be a professional footballer or play any sport professionally, you are in a privileged position, being to be paid to do a job that is the envy of many, a job which sees you feted and adored, you also signed up to be a role model with a responsibility to behave in a sensible and mature way.
Ball boys have been a part of many sports for more years than most of us can remember, and many end up fulfilling their dream and one day running out onto the pitch or the court, emulating those heroes that they once served. Former World number one tennis player Ivan Lendl, now coach of Andy Murray was himself once a ball boy at a national tennis tournament in Ostrava in 1969. In the same year Kenny Stroud was a ball boy at the League Cup Final when Swindon Town defeated Arsenal 3-1, two years later he was signed by Swindon and in 1977 was a finalist in the Goal of the season in England.
Often ball boys – who rarely receive any financial reward for their time – are the players of the future, and if the players of today fail to respect their contribution then the sport is heading down a vary dark path.
Eden Hazard should be severely punished for his actions. Ball boys, like referees should never be subjected to such aggressive behaviour and any player who carries out such an act, irrespective of their status and salary, should be severely censored and punished.
At the same time Chelsea Football Club needs to have a long hard look at itself and the behaviour of players honoured to wear their club shirt. This is a club with a proud history, and despite the success the club has had, most true fans and former players will not want to see the club tarnished by such actions. Just as a team is only as good as its last game, so too is a club’s reputation. It is time for Chelsea to clean up its act, and they can start by giving Hazard the severest of punishments. Set the tone now for the future, and let us see if the Manager really is the gaffer!