A HIBS fan has apologised for spitting on a young ballboy during last night’s high-tempered Edinburgh derby.
The shocking incident took place late in the second half when the Hearts ballboy Ross Wittmann – believed to be aged around ten – attempted to wrestle the ball away from Hibs fans in the Roseburn Stand.
On his way back to his seat a number of fans stepped forward and spat into his face.
The ballboy recoiled in horror before alerting police who arrested an alleged offender and escorted him from the ground. Social media sites and fans forums erupted in fury about the incident after the 0-0 draw and the young ballboy took to Twitter and said: “I was just running past and then like two or three of them spat at me and I stopped and wiped it off.”
When asked whether he was punched also, he replied: “Na he didn’t punch me, just a grog. Police grabbed him before he can run away. So that was good! #scum.”
He later added: “To be honest I would rather get a punch than someone spiting in my face! #vile”
Hours later repentant Hibs fan, Billy Nicoll, messaged the boy via Twitter to say: “Am sorry for what I done, I know I shouldn’t of done it but I never thought at the time, just wanted to say am sorry.”
He added: “Feel so sorry for the ballboy would like to give all my apology, hope you don’t stop being a ballboy because of people like me.”
Nicoll has since closed down his Facebook account after receiving a deluge of messages decrying his actions and ordering him to hand himself into the police.
He added later on Twitter: “Everyone saying it was me when everyone was doing it.”
Hearts fan Greg Wood last night urged him to do the right thing and surrender himself in to police in the morning.
He said: “If you’re really that sorry then you will go to the police in the morning, own up to it and make a proper apology.”
A host of Scottish and English players came out in support of the young ballboy labelling those who spat at him as “disgusting” and “vile”.
Hearts player Jamie Hamill said: “The fan who spat on the ballboy should never be allowed at any ground ever I would rather someone punched me than spit on me #disgusting.”
Fellow Hearts star Danny Grainger said: “A wee shout out to Ross Wittmann, the ball boy from tonight, hope he doesn’t stop being a ballboy because of one clown.”
Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths was equally disgusted and said: “The wee boy didn’t deserve to be spat on. To the fan that spat on the boy you should be ashamed of yourself!” Bolton and England u21 striker Marvin Sordell tweeted his support also: “Fair play to Ross Wittmann the Hearts ball boy who was spat on by a Hibs supporter. Didn’t go and lower himself to the scum!! Disgusting.”
A police spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a 16-year-old has been arrested last night in relation to this incident.”
Last February, Hearts were forced to withdraw ballboys at Tynecastle during a clash with Celtic after one was hit by a coin thrown from the crowd.
The 13-year-old was caught between Celtic supporters in the Roseburn Stand and Hearts fans in the Wheatfield Stand.
The previous May, Celtic manager Neil Lennon was attacked at Tynecastle by Hearts fan John Wilson.
WHAT THE FANS SAID
The Wee Ball Boy
I was just running past and then like 2 or 3 of them spat at me and I stopped and wiped it off
Billy Nicoll (@BillyNicoll)
@rosswittmann am sorry for what I done, I know I shouldn’t of done it but I never thought at the time, just wanted to say am sorry
Ryan McGowan (@rmcgowan89)
Disgraceful behaviour by ONE Hibs fan tonight’s spitting on a ball boy! Although thought both sets of fans were great tonight
James McPake (@JamesMcPake)
Didn’t know about the ball boy. That’s a shambles and deserved to be threw out if true.
Leigh griffiths (@LeighG28)
And to the fan that spat on the all boy....u should be ashamed of yourself!