Last night's Capital One Cup tie saw a farcical incident in which a player was sent off for kicking a time-wasting ballboy. Chelsea's Eden Hazard saw red after taking none of the ball and all of the man in his challenge on the young Swansea fan.
First of all, it must be said that violent conduct can never ever be condoned. As a professional footballer, Hazard should not have let his emotions get the better of him. Ultimately, this shows poor composure as his team was reduced to ten men after the incident.
Whilst Swansea manager Michael Laudrup strenuously denied that he instructed the ballboys to timewaste, this misses the point entirely. A ballboy, like other staff in the ground, should be neutral to the game and should not play a part in influencing the outcome of the result. This should not have to be stated explicitly by anyone.
If this is not the case, where do we draw the line? If it is acceptable for a ballboy to hold onto the ball under his own volition, what is there to stop him booting the ball out the stadium? Granted, the referee will add on additional time, but this will still benefit the home team disproportionately. Moreover, what if an impartial groundsman decided to dig up half the pitch at half-time to help the home team protect a lead?
Whilst these are quite extreme examples, the principle still stands. Ballboys and ground staff are not strictly under the jurisdiction of the referee. As such, their impartiality should be unquestionable.
Whilst Charlie Morgan was only doing as would any other 17-year-old in front of a stadium full of home fans, his behavior is symptomatic of a growing lack of respect in modern football. Rather than feel embarrassed that he had interfered in a professional football match in front of a viewing public numbering in the millions, the young ballboy continued to writhe around in agony, gesticulating furiously at the Chelsea player.
Poignantly, the scene was reminiscent of more or less every single late challenge I've witnessed in the Premier League in the last 10 seasons.
Unfortunately, 'gamesmanship' has well and truly taken the place of sportsmanship in today's game. It is certainly not unfair to say that footballers are now poor role models for young people. Whilst diving is largely given a bad press, by associating 'good gamesmanship' with many of the world's best players, the media are inadvertently glorifying such behavior.
What do Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and Luis Suarez have in common? Granted, they may all have a reputation for being theatrical, but they're theatrical world-beaters at the same time.
It is true that there is now more money in the game, the coaches are better, the facilities are better, the players are more technically gifted and the game is now played at a faster pace. But at what price has this come? Do we actually respect football any more or do we just enjoy it?
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