Premier League

A forensic analysis of Eden Hazard kicking the Swansea City ball boy

A forensic analysis of Eden Hazard kicking the Swansea City ball boy

There is plenty about football to celebrate, but really, will it ever get better than a Swansea City ball boy getting Eden Hazard sent off for Chelsea? What a time to be alive.

In the Simpsons episode ‘You Only Move Twice’, enigmatic and megalomaniacal new boss Hank Scorpio asks Homer whether he has ever seen a man say goodbye to a shoe.

“Yes, once,” is the reply, and it makes for an easy go-to answer whenever anyone is asked to recall a sporting incident that feels scarcely believable even to those who saw it with their own eyes.

You know the sort of thing: “Have you ever seen Diana Ross miss a penalty?” or “Have you ever seen two team-mates sent off for fighting each other mid-game?” – you know you have, or at least you thought you knew, but perhaps it was just a fever dream.

Here’s another one for you, have you ever seen a £32million footballer get sent off for kicking out at a teenage ball boy?

Yes, once.

Back in January 2013, Eden Hazard wasn’t yet the superstar we know him as today.

The Belgian had left Lille the previous summer after they failed to retain their Ligue 1 title, with his 20 goals bettered only by Paris Saint-Germain’s Nene and Montpelier’s title-winning frontman Olivier Giroud.

However, it hadn’t been plain sailing after his move to Chelsea: Roberto Di Matteo, who signed Hazard at the end of one of the earliest Twitter transfer announcements, lost his job after failing to get beyond the Champions League group stages, and interim boss Rafa Benítez wasn’t exactly the most popular man in west London after his shit-on-a-stick history with the club.

Hazard had scored a fairly modest eight goals by this point, and none in Europe, though he had netted in a bizarre 5-4 victory over Manchester United and a more comfortable 5-1 win at Leeds to send the Blues into the final four of the League Cup.

The context

Their opponents at the semi-final stage were Swansea, who had been benefiting from the goals of bargain signing Michu, a man so cheap his name became shorthand for measurements of £2million.

For all the ways in which social media might have been better back in early 2013 – there was a 99% reduction in use of the word ‘Brexit’ for a start – the endless memeification of Michu was, in a word, exhausting.

The Spaniard had a huge impact in the first leg, outscoring Hazard – a man who cost 16 Michus, to use the parlance of those times – and helping Michael Laudrup’s team come away from west…

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