A man was arrested after running onto the field and punching Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish at the tenth minute during Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship match at St. Andrew’s in Birmingham, with Grealish running away with his back to the assailant.
“Football is facing urgent calls to improve player safety,” reports The Guardian as the instance is only the latest of troubling crowd-related incidents in recent weeks.
The Man Rushed the Field
The fan struck Grealish from behind, striking the side of his head.
“It’s a situation no player should ever be faced with,” the English Football League said in a statement. “In all circumstances the playing surface is for players, not supporters and those playing in the game must be able to do so safe in the knowledge they will not be subjected to this type of behavior.
“I was walking into position and then just felt a whack around the side of the face,” Grealish said. “Obviously there’s rivalry and stuff in football but I don’t think there’s any place for that.”
The assailant was rushed by Grealish’s teammates and stadium security. As the man was lead away by the police, he blew kisses at the crowd.
Grealish was Struck in the Head
“We apologize to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club,” Birmingham said in a statement. “What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this. There are no excuses.”
“Whilst this incident falls within the remit of the Football Association, we will work with all the relevant parties to address the issue of player and match officials safety on the pitch and ensure the appropriate action is taken.”
In 2010, a soccer player was chased off the field by fans with one throwing punches in the back of the player’s head. A day later in another game police made eight arrests stemming from Sunday’s game between Sheffield and Crystal Palace in the League Championship.
Following the attack on Grealish, the Professional Footballers’ Association said in a statement, “The PFA is concerned that we’ve seen elements of this type of behavior coming back into the game, with several high-profile crowd-related issues this season.
We must address issues of violence and racist chanting – this should include continued efforts with regards to education but be underpinned by strong punishments and sanctions.”
Grealish was uninjured and scored the only goal of the game after half time for Aston Villa’s victory over Birmingham City.
Twitter user @RichHomieChapo called Grealish’s score a revenge goal:
Grealish was matter-of-fact about scoring the only and winning point of the game.
“I just tried to get on with my job,” Grealish said. “To score the winner was unbelievable, after what happened in the first half I think it was set up for it.”
“What started out as a sickening incident turned into a beautiful one,” writes Nate Scott for USA Today. “Grealish admirably kept calm after the incident, and received love from both members of both teams for having to endure what he did.”