Why Marrone ban over ball-boy incident sends a bad message

Adelaide United defender Michael Marrone has copped a ban for the controversial ball-boy incident during last week's FFA Cup final, but should the ball-boy also have been reprimanded?

Michael Marrone

Adelaide United A-League footballer Michael Marrone leaves an independent disciplinary and ethics committee hearing, in Sydney Source: AAP

Picture this.

You’re playing in a professional league cup final and you’ve just gone behind after conceding a goal in extra time with five minutes of the match remaining.

You’re physically and mentally exhausted after a gruelling contest but it’s at that moment that your body receives an additional shot of adrenalin because you know that you’re still well and truly in this.

You only have to look at what Barcelona did to Paris Saint Germain in the second-leg of the Champions League last season to know that nothing is impossible in football.

With your belief levels high, and your coach shouting instructions from the sidelines, the ball goes out of play and as you run to retrieve it, you see that the ball boy has turned his back.

Then it dawns on you - he’s deliberately withholding that precious bauble encased in leather, to run-out the clock.

In your haste to keep the momentum going, you go to grab it and the young boy falls to the ground.

Before you know it, an opposition player is running at you and a dramatic scuffle ensues.

You’re shown a red card, your team ultimately loses out on the trophy and to make matters worse, now you’re being accused of ‘assaulting a child’ by a small faction of easily outraged, keyboard warriors.

This exact scenario is precisely what played out with Adelaide United’s Michael Marrone in last week’s 2-1 loss to Sydney FC in the FFA Cup Final.

Yesterday, the Reds defender was forced to appear before an independent Disciplinary and Ethics Committee at FFA headquarters in Sydney, where he was cited for "engaging in unsporting conduct" and slapped with an additional one-game ban, plus a suspended sentence of a further two matches.

Now that’s outrageous.

I have watched footage of the ‘incident’ at least a dozen times and tried to mount arguments for both sides but each time, I arrive at the same destination - what that ball boy did was implicitly wrong and I feel for Marrone tremendously.

We’re not talking about an under-12s match in which the parents idly standing by on the sidelines can draw humour from the actions of one smart-alec prepubescent kid, we’re talking about a cup final in a professional league.

What’s even more astonishing, is that the only person to receive any form of sanction was Marrone for something that never should have happened in the first place.

Meanwhile, the ball boy was hauled up onto the winners podium at full-time, given a player’s medal from Sydney FC’s Michael Zullo and allowed to lift the silverware.

If the entire debacle wasn’t already farcical, those very acts just elevated this to an unfathomable level of ridiculousness.

What kind of message does this send to the other kids watching? That you’ll be hailed as a hero, get some air-time on television, lift a trophy and walk away with a shiny memento if you employ the same tactics?

In Zullo’s post-match interview he was asked about the boy being brought up on stage and he responded by saying: "We got him up there because he put his body on the line."

Who instructed the ball boy to do this and more importantly why is he now being treated like he helped the team win?

Were the Sydney FC ball boys told to slow the game down if they were in the lead? And if that were the case, how is this not classified as cheating and being brought before the Ethics Committee?

As fans, we’re the first to name and shame players who dive or time waste, yet in Marrone’s case, the ball boy’s antics are exempt from any criticism.

This is an indictment on the game because a ball boy’s sole job is to collect the balls and redistribute them to players and officials, nothing more, nothing less.

The unfortunate reality though, is that adopting these types of methods isn’t something new in world football.

Back in 2013, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was sensationally banned for three matches by the Football Association after the Belgian had an altercation with a ball boy named Charlie Morgan during a League Cup semi-final.

Morgan deliberately lay on top of the ball, Hazard attempted to kick it out from underneath him and the theatrics that followed from the 17-year-old were Oscar-worthy and saw Harry Redknapp label them "disgusting".

Prior to the match, the Swansea youngster in question was tweeting how he was a "super time-waster" and then to make matters worse, police were called in to investigate Hazard.

Manchester United coach, Jose Mourinho also once called the Leicester ball boys a "disgrace to the Premier League" but has since opted to dismiss the Red Devils Foundation boys and girl and bring in players from the club’s academy teams.

If you believe the reports in England, it’s because these kids will know when to waste time or speed up play.

Now Marrone, an experienced footballer playing at the highest level in this country is sidelined, whilst a young boy receives high-fives around the schoolyard and resumes his duties at Allianz Stadium without any repercussions from the club or anyone.

So ask yourself, if an opposition team were to adopt a similar set of tactics against you this week - would you be ok with it?

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5 min read
Published 29 November 2017 at 12:40pm
By Lucy Zelic