In extraordinary scenes witnessed in the Championship, the second division of English football, Aston Villa superstar Jack Grealish was attacked from behind and punched by a fan during their derby match against bitter rivals Birmingham City.
Grealish is a highly regarded prospect in English football due to his skills with the ball at his feet and was leading the Villa side in the derby contest. He was on fire during the match, not getting affected by the incident and eventually scored the winner in the 67th minute in Villa’s 1-0 eventual victory.
Here is the video of Grealish being attacked:
The man was identified as a 27-year old male by the name of Paul Mitchell. Strict action is expected against him with a prison sentence and a lifetime ban from watching football in stadiums across the country as likely punishment.
Aston Villa condemned the incident in a statement:
A red line has been crossed by this cowardly on-field assault on a player, which is unprecedented in English football. We trust the perpetrator will feel the full force of the law and the authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding today’s deplorable incident. Local rivalries are part of the fabric of the game however, as we are sure our friends at Birmingham City would agree, to have a player’s personal safety placed under such jeopardy is a serious cause for concern for the entire football community.”
Birmingham City also released a statement, apologizing to both Aston Villa and Jack Grealish:
Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in this afternoon’s derby match. We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The Club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.”
Jack Grealish himself though, was unfazed by the incident. As quoted by Sky Sports, he said:
To come here for the first time as captain of Aston Villa and then score the winner – it’s what dream are made of, especially being an Aston Villa fan. I was just unaware at the time. I think we had a corner or a throw-in and I was walking into position when I felt a whack around the side of my face. Obviously, there is a rivalry in football but I don’t think there is any place for that really.”