We can’t say we hadn’t been warned.
Harry the Hornet, the Premier League’s most brazen mascot, has crossed the line from pitchside banter to all-out political football warfare.
The cuddly invertebrate’s mock dive in emulation of Wilfried Zaha, who had been booked for simulation in Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw against Watford minutes earlier, has incurred the wrath of the Eagles winger and his manager Sam Allardyce.
Zaha had to be dragged from the pitch, while Big Sam has suggested that the Football Association should investigate the insect’s conduct.
“The mascot is out of order,” Allardyce slammed, while Zaha appeared to be badmouthing the furry creature as he was led down the Vicarage Road tunnel by a concerned member of the coaching staff.
But to anyone who has observed the mascot’s antics in recent years, this dramatic flashpoint will come as no surprise.
A hornet who prides himself on being the baddest mascot in the country, in recent years Harry has persistently pushed the boundaries of what he can get away with.
In this very column a year ago, a warning was issued about Harry’s increasingly erratic behaviour. He interfered with sprinklers, he mimicked player celebrations on live TV and he even made a controversial tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.
But with Allardyce now calling for sanctions against the creature, the hornet’s latest actions appear to be the most serious yet.
So has the yellow character gone too far?
While Allardyce was adamant that Zaha had been denied a legitimate penalty after tangling with Miguel Britos in the box, several pundits felt that Zaha had gone down easily. As such, the hornet’s post-match theatrics could be deemed morally acceptable.
But a graver accusation is that Harry, in the words of Allardyce, “could have provoked the wrong reaction”.
For instance, if Zaha had not been restrained, he may have confronted the hornet and become embroiled in a heated argument or even a physical altercation.
A grown man punching a giant furry insect is not the image the Premier League wants to project to its billions of global followers. In fact it’s the exact opposite.
Such an incident could have cost the Premier League, and therefore the UK economy, billions of pounds – and Harry would have been responsible.
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri, a personal friend of the mascot, tried to diffuse the situation, pleading, “Let’s all laugh together about this. Everything doesn’t have to be a drama.”
Maybe where Mazzarri comes from (Italy) it is normal for giant wasps with men’s legs to call the shots, but here in Great Britain it has never been thus. As such it seems clear that our sovereignty is at risk – from insects.
Little is known about man who inhabits Harry’s costume, if indeed there is one. It is feared the identities of the two have merged into one terrifying whole as Harry’s profile has outgrown the capabilities of any human.
In this context, it seems likely that Watford could not tame the deranged hornet even if they wanted to. He rules the Hertfordshire town with a furry fist and he answers to no one.
This would explain why Zaha, so incensed following his skirmish with Harry on Boxing Day, has already backed down.
He posted a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, giving the mascot a grovelling “thumbs up” in an obvious attempt to put an end to the row. Zaha was clearly fearful for his safety.
Reports have also begun to surface that the FA will be taking “no action” against the Hornet, indicating that they too have been cowed by his ever-expanding, progressively terrifying ego.
The English game has never before seen a mascot like Harry the Hornet, and it does not know how to handle him. But by letting his actions go unpunished, FA and Premier League bigwigs will only feed his growing predilection for danger.
Having witnessed how Harry’s tastes have evolved from fun japes with smiling children to direct confrontation with opposition players, one shudders to think at what this grinning colossus of the mascot world will do next.
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