The art of diving for advantageous free kicks or penalties has been a thorn in the side of soccer for many years. I use the phrase ‘thorn in the side’ in large part because of the controversial nature of the subject. Universally recognized as a covert tactic; diving, or “simulation” as FIFA prefers to describe it, has become more prevalent than ever.

Players who seem to hit the ground regularly have been criticized by the media (especially in the UK) and vilified by fans. However, such is the level at which football is played in the modern era, is it time we admit that this is an evil that will never be eradicated?

Last week, the perennial baddie of the Premiership pantomime, El-Hadji Diouf, admitted to the media that he is not ashamed to participate in the “simulation.” The Senegalese international proclaimed: “Sometimes I need to dive to get a penalty. It’s just football. The best footballer is very smart.” There is a certain school of thought that says Diouf enjoys the backlash he receives from opposition supporters, which is why he would willingly court such controversy.

However, it must be recognized in some way that he is not the only one who goes to the ground to “scam” an official. Bolton’s man goes on to claim that reputation could influence how certain players are viewed on this issue: “It’s not just me who dives. If you see Wayne Rooney, how often does he dive to get a penalty?” Without obviously pointing any accusing fingers in Mr. Rooney’s direction, it could be argued that it is not simply the vilified taking the plunge.

There is no doubt that the art of faking a foul is something that has entered the English game from the continent. This is one more ammunition for the many skeptics who claim that our leagues have been damaged by the influx of foreign players, but regardless of one’s stance on that particular ‘hot potato’, it is clearly a by-product of this infiltration.

When Tottenham Hotspur secured the signing of Jurgen Klinsmann in 1994, there was a whirlwind of press attention, not least because, surprisingly, the North London team had earned the services of one of Europe’s most respected forwards, but also due to the reputation of the Germans. for faking injury and diving in order to gain advantages for his team. Only the previous season had he managed to fool a referee into firing Alessandro Costacurta from AC Milan for an alleged header that was later shown to never have occurred.

Klinsmann, clearly more than aware of both his own reputation and the English philosophy about him, reacted with a powerful header on his debut and subsequently celebrated the goal with a mocking dive. Almost instantly, fans young and old were seen replicating the ‘Klinsmann dive’ in parks across the country. To the credit of ‘Golden Bomber’ (as he is known in his home country), the stigma with which he arrived was soon shaken and, after a superb season, he won the English ‘Player of the Year’ award and, what it is more surprising, the hearts of many fans.

However, in addition to being one of the first players to raise the topic of simulation, Klinsmann was also one of the pioneers in what became a flood of footballers arriving in the Premier League from the continent. While the influx of foreign players is generally considered to have improved the English game in terms of technique and skill, this is also considered to have resulted in a darker characteristic within our highest category.

The diving of foreign players has provoked angry reactions from many fans. David Ginola, despite his magical talent, was considered by many to have purposely thrown himself to win penalties, free throws and (in an infamous incident) get Gary Neville penalized. Ginola’s compatriot, Arsenal’s Robert Pires, was harshly criticized for ‘leaving his foot out’ when circling defenders (the idea was that the Frenchman stumbles when cutting off a defender’s outstretched arm), and not only have been the French defendants. The Chelsea duo of Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben was criticized by many for hitting the grass with little or no pressure. Robben received especially strong criticism for falling dramatically when he was pushed slightly by Liverpool’s José Reina. The examples extend well beyond these few names and this can be safely described as the “tip of the iceberg”.

When analyzing this topic, we must take into account the bias in which it is seen. For the English, diving is perceived as something cowardly and weak. It is far from the image that a stereotypical British man can see as “masculine”. This, combined with the attitude on these shores towards cheating in general (in case you’re wondering, we don’t condone), means that simulating injuries or foul play is generally frowned upon. To coin a great British phrase; “It’s just not cricket.”
However, on the continent this is not necessarily the case.

In many different cultures and countries, it is considered positive for one to “cheat” to gain an advantage. Rather than being considered undercover, he considers himself smart, as Diouf has been quoted as saying. This is especially the opinion of Argentines, the best example being, although slightly tangent to the subject at hand, Diego Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ goal against England during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Talking to a British journalist In 1987, the tiny genius blatantly proclaimed, “It was one hundred percent legitimate because the referee allowed it and I don’t question the referee’s honesty.”

Despite not being directly related to the subject of diving, this example shows the obvious clash in the cultural perspective of gaining an “invisible” advantage. This brings us to the question of whether it is our own culture that makes simulation such an important issue in this country. In Southern Europe we could also agree that the careers of players like Filippo Inzaghi (Italy) and Nuno Gomes (Portugal) have prospered due to their apparent inability to stand upright when faced with a challenge and it should also be noted that this is not so vilified. in Mediterranean climates as it is further north.

It cannot be argued that, after all, the diver is winning the battle today. As the old adage goes, “if crime didn’t pay, there would be very few criminals,” and with this we can agree. Even if the player is “discovered” later by one of the hundreds of cameras in today’s games, they will still have achieved their goal. In most cases, especially the most controversial ones, the penalty would have been awarded, converted and the referee ripped off.
There is no better example of this than in the Premiership meeting between Tottenham and Portsmouth earlier this season. When repeated at various angles, it became clear that the penalty that Didier Zakora of the Spurs earned by falling to the ground due to Pedro Mendes’ ‘defiance’ was dubious to say the least. To be fair, the replays showed that there was clear daylight between the pair. When Tottenham duly converted the kick and won the game, somewhat embarrassed Martin Jol was forced to claim that his player was “off balance”.

When I started this article, I was convinced that I would conclude with the argument that there is nothing you can do with diving, that it is part of modern football and we should accept it. Which for the most part is a problem that we British will have to get used to. I was going to make the argument that football is a game of ‘swings and roundabouts’, where the physical approach that produced so much success for British clubs during the 1970s and early 1980s has been repressed and we have not evolved sufficiently to a modern game that includes diving. Many argue that the English should replicate their continental counterparts and start diving, in a “if you can’t beat them join them” approach.

However, I have now come to the decision that I believe that diving should be suppressed. In reaction to the aforementioned incident, Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp thought, as many do, that video replays would be the answer, arguing: “So why should the fourth official, who is connected to the referee, not You can have a monitor – next to the field and tell the referee what really happened. ” The idea of ​​instant video replays during games is too big a topic to dig into, but I think they would slow down the sport even more.

My handling of the “simulation” would be addressed by an arbitration committee. Similar to the current FA video panel viewing contentious topics, the panel could be expanded to cover this topic. The problem for referees, and an issue that is often overlooked, is that soccer is a game where things happen very quickly, they have a fraction of a second to make a decision, a decision that will be judged instantly ( and often booed) by the thousands. to see followers. Due to the pace of play, it is often very difficult to examine whether contact has been made in an inning.

So I would suggest that we continue as we are at the moment, but any player seen in the replay who has taken to win his team a dangerous free kick or penalty will receive an instant two-match penalty. If this sentence was to take effect, how much longer will the players throw themselves to the ground to gain an advantage, when they will know that they will lose the football of the next fortnight? Surely such a rule could help bring some honesty back to a sport that has seriously lacked honesty in recent years.

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