The Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has made a public apology after he was sent off for kicking a ballboy during his team's draw with Swansea City that sealed their 2-0 aggregate defeat in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
Hazard could yet face a Football Association charge after he was dismissed by referee Chris Foy when he tried to kick the ball out from underneath the 17-year-old boy, named locally as Charlie Morgan, the son of the Swansea director Martin Morgan. The teenager was later invited into the Chelsea dressing room where interim manager Rafa Benitez said that the pair apologised to each other.
Morgan had laid on top of the ball, preventing Hazard from retrieving it. There was further controversy when a Twitter account alleged to have been established by the boy had boasts of how he intentionally wasted time for Swansea, where he had served as a ballboy for the last six years according to the club.
Hazard told Chelsea TV: “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.”
A spokesman for Swansea, who will play Bradford City in the final on 24 February, later confirmed that South Wales police had spoken to Morgan and his father and it had been agreed that no charges would be pressed. He said that Frank Lampard and John Terry in particular had made Morgan feel welcome when he was invited into the dressing room, accompanied by a member of the Swansea staff.
Benitez said: “The boy has been in the dressing room and they [he and Hazard] have spoken. They have apologised to each other. They knew they were both wrong. The ballboy was wasting time. Hazard wanted to get the ball back quickly. They both made mistakes. They both accept they were wrong, and we can't change things. They apologised to each other.”
Pushed on the issue, Benitez said: “Do you think we are not disappointed with the situation? That we don't regret what's happened? They apologised. You cannot change things. We cannot. They both made a mistake. The player spoke with the boy and said sorry because there was a mistake. Listen to me: as Chelsea FC, we know it was a mistake, we talk with the boy, we talk with the player. The boy was with us in the dressing room. Everyone was very clear.”
The Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said that he understood the frustrations that affected Hazard but that his actions were unforgivable. “There are things you can never do. You can't kick the ball. I don't know Hazard personally but I'm sure when he sees it he will regret it. I try to understand and I can up to a certain point, but the last part I can't. You can never accept that, kicking another person like that.”
On Swansea's historic victory, Laudrup said: “To be in a final for the first time is absolutely fantastic. To have beaten the European champions over two games, it's really incredible, without conceding a goal.”