Unfortunately the tremendous achievements of both Swansea City and Bradford on reaching the League Cup final have been all but overshadowed by the already boring ball boy incident at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday night.
It has admittedly been blown out of proportion, but at the same time might be a cue for football to takes a good look at itself. We have become used to professional footballers cheating in every match. But now it seems even some ball boys spot the opportunity to do the same. It's not a great reflection on the beautiful game.
Chelsea's Eden Hazard was rightly sent off for kicking ball boy Charlie Morgan, however softly, in his attempt to retrieve the ball. It was the act of a very frustrated player and as a professional he should have known better. It was a classic red mist moment.
But the ball boy, who at 17 years old is more of a young man than a child, was hardly an innocent victim. He wasn't a little nipper being bashed up by a big bad guy. He was clearly attempting to waste time by smothering the ball and refusing to hand it back after the ball had gone for a goal kick.
You could argue that footballers waste time in every game, so why not ball boys? However, the ball boy had not helped his cause by an ill-advised tweet earlier in the day in which he mentioned the prospect of time-wasting.
The incident was cleverly portrayed by a Guardian reader who wrote: "Excellent performance by the ball boy. As soon as he felt the initial contact he is entitled to go to ground. Then he expertly shielded the ball and intelligently drew the foul from Hazard. Left the ref with no option."
Of course Twitter exploded, with the event dividing public opinion, although most people agreed with the red card for Hazard. The Chelsea player's key mistake was the kick, while the ball boy came under fire for making a meal of it.
At least the boy and Hazard briefly apologised to each other in the Chelsea dressing room.
The media loved it, of course, with headlines like "Hazardous Occupation", "Boots of Hazard" and the awful "Ballboy Gate".
It was also another PR disaster for Chelsea, who have developed the unenviable habit of rubbing everyone up the wrong way.
"Thug Hazard Shames Blues" screamed the Daily Mail, which was a bit over the top.
Some tweets were quite entertaining. "Hazard kicked him with the force of about three angry ants," wrote one fan. "If it had been Torres, he would have missed him," observed another.
Time-wasting ball boys are of course nothing new - it happens throughout football, and is only human nature. But usually it is performed in a more subtle fashion, with the ball boy sometimes strolling after the ball or perhaps accidentally dropping it. But it's nothing to get your knickers in a twist about.
The ball boys or girls are usually younger than the fellow in Wednesday's incident, who happened to be the son of a Swansea director. Most clubs have an age limit of 12-16 for the job.
Ironically, Chelsea were the first ever club to introduce ball boys, a long time ago.
It was in the early days of the 20th century when Chelsea had a physically huge goalkeeper, William Fatty Foulke. He looked a formidable figure in goal and to emphasise his bulk and thus intimidate opposing forwards even more, Chelsea placed two small boys behind the goal.
When shots went past the goal, the boys would retrieve the ball, and hence the concept of ball boys was introduced and became a familiar part of football.
In a way it's surprising that ball boys are not involved in more incidents.
In the Manchester derby in 2008 a City ball boy threw the ball with some menace at Cristiano Ronaldo as he was preparing to take a corner, but, fortunately for all, the Manchester United star didn't react.
Perhaps the most famous incident occurred at a match in Brazil when, after a shot had gone past the post, a ball boy kicked the ball into the goal.
The referee didn't see it and amazingly awarded a goal.
Tennis is another sport which uses a lot of ball boys and girls and although they usually stay out of trouble, there was an incident at Wimbledon in 1995 featuring the most unlikely of culprits, the mild-mannered Tim Henman.
The English player briefly lost his temper after missing a shot in a doubles match. He whacked the errant ball in disgust and to his horror saw it slam into a ball girl's head, temporarily flooring her.
Henman and his partner were promptly disqualified, the first time this had happened at Wimbledon in the modern era.
The English star was genuinely contrite and the next day there followed a public relations exercise in which Henman presented the unfortunate girl with a bouquet of flowers and gave her a big kiss.
Judging from the look on the girl's face she found the kissing more terrifying than being whacked on the head by the ball.
As it is, we can look forward to a most unlikely League Cup final between Swansea and Bradford at Wembley on Feb 24. It's a great accomplishment by both clubs. Let's hope the ball boys behave themselves - and the players too.
About the author
- Writer: Nobby Piles