— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) March 9, 2016
The Hazard And Di-Maria Backlash
It’s ironic really – what is meant to be a gesture of good sportsmanship between players is the one thing that’s guaranteed to annoy football fans.
The half-time shirt swap is certainly an irrational hatred; it unbelievable that such an innocent action always manages to draw such disproportionate levels of hatred.
The fact remains that fans and managers alike are quick to criticise the action – especially if it happens in the middle of a crucial and closely-fought Champions League fixture.
Eden Hazard and Angel Di Maria were the latest in a short line of footballers to engage in the unpopular trend, swapping shirts at half-time of the clash between Chelsea and PSG at Stamford Bridge.
With speculation gaining velocity that Eden Hazard is eyeing up a move to Les Parisiens in the summer, there was always going to be a backlash to the Belgians actions.
The Chelsea boss hooked, Footballer of the Year, Hazard off to the sound of boos in the 77th minute after the forward was gesticulating to the bench that he had injured himself.
Speaking on the incident after the game, Guus Hiddink said the Belgian was wrong to do it as he walked off the pitch and justified the fans reaction as Hazard came off and went straight down the tunnel:
“I haven’t seen it, but I’m aware. I’m not saying I’m unaware. And yeah, it should not be done.
[The fans] have the right to boo whatever they think. One can always express what they are feeling.”
Chelsea fans and keyboard warriors alike snatched at their devices as the incident was broadcast live on BT Sport’s coverage – hailing an array of abuse at the former fan favourite:
Swap shirts at HT?! If I were Hiddink, I’d genuinely make Hazard play the 2nd half in Di Maria’s PSG top to teach him a lesson #BBCFootball
— Stephen Collins (@steviedeek) March 9, 2016
You’ve been poor all season, with your attitude and commitment questioned. Swap shirts at HT in biggest game of season? Nice one, Hazard.
— Natter Football (@NATTERFOOTBALL) March 9, 2016
But banter aside, Hazard’s showing today from shirt exchange to his call for substitution has been an utter disgrace.
— eddy (@ediological) March 9, 2016
@100pctchelsea told u guys, hazard is a snake. Worst performer 2night. Don’t want 2 see him wearing chelsea shirt again. He can go 2 hell
— #ChelseaBoy (@chelseaboyspeak) February 16, 2016
Infamous Shirt Swapping Controversies
Perhaps the most high-profile example of premature shirt swapping was when Arsenal’s André Santos appeared to be all to keen to get his hands on ex-Gunner Robin van Persie’s shirt at the break during Manchester United’s 2-1 win over the Gunners in November 2012.
Van Persie had wasted no time, scoring against his former club after just three minutes and Santos, whose performances at the club rarely endeared himself to the Gunners faithful, considered the Dutchman’s jersey a keepsake he couldn’t hang around to get his hands on – much to Alan Hansen and Shearer’s disgust. Arsene Wenger shared their disapproving sentiments:
“I don’t even understand it, he is completely in a different world when he does that.”
Former Manchester United players recently revealed that Ruud van Nistelrooy once received a serious threat from Sir Alex Ferguson when he thought it would be a good idea to swap shirts during a Manchester derby.
Ferguson’s response, according to Phil Neville reports on 5live Radio, was: “do that again and you’ll be out of the club”.
Rio Ferdinand added to Neville’s comments remarking that:
“Sir Alex went ballistic, swearing at Ruud with the hairdryer on full blast,Ruud was standing there speechless. The message was ‘You don’t swap shirts with them after getting a beating like that’.”
Perhaps the most intriguing example of genuine sportsmanship came at the conclusion of Atlético Mineiro’s defeat at the Fifa Club World Cup, losing to Moroccan side Raja Casablanca.
Ronaldinho certainly got more than he bargained for. The Brazilian was mobbed at full-time by players from the Moroccan champions, apparently overawed at having met and played against the superstar, managing to secure not only his shirt… but also his boots!
So is it Just Sportsmanship or an example of Disloyalty?
I think the magic word in this debate is context.
The main reason that Hazard came under fire from both his manager and the Chelsea support is because the timing was so impeccably appalling. If you’re losing in a Champions League match, to a club that you’re linked with a move to, it’s probably not a sensible decision.
If Hazard had swapped shirts with Di Maria at half-time of, say a friendly pre-season tournament in Shanghai – would anybody bat an eyelid? Probably not.
That’s not to suggest that players shouldn’t swap shirts at all, but really, why not wait until the end of the game and deny the opportunity for any media backlash?
I don’t think that Eden Hazard was being malicious in his actions, rather it was naive to think that it would be considered acceptable given the circumstances.
Shirt swapping at half-time is more often a case of ill-judgement than a calculated expression of disloyalty.
Shirtswapping At Half-time is…
Outrageous. Players that do it shouldn’t play for their club again!
Not a big deal at all. Just sportsmanship, don’t see what the fuss is about.