Rivaldo’s theatrical dive in the Group Stage of the 2002 World Cup is one of the most controversial moments in Football and World Cup history. Rivaldo’s dive resulted in the Hakan Ünsal being red carded by South Korean referee Kim Young-Joo. In this article I will evaluate the incident before and the reaction, which sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world and left the Turkish fans in everlasting agony.
The World Cup in 2002 was held in South Korea and Japan. In qualifying, Brazil finished third behind Ecuador and Argentina level on points with Paraguay.
Turkey qualified after finishing second in Group 4, where they came up against Sweden who were eventual winners, Slovakia, Macedonia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan. In the group, Turkey finished second meaning they had to win their play off matches in order to advance. The Turks were drawn against Austria. The first leg played in Vienna ended 1-0 to Turkey with a goal from Okan Buruk. In the second leg, the tie wasn’t so close and the Turks ran out comfortable winners. Erdem grabbed two goals in a 5-0 drubbing over the Austrians. As a result of the 6-0 aggregate win, Turkey progressed to only their second World Cup and the first one in forty-eight years.
Both Brazil and Turkey were drawn in Group C with Costa Rica & China. Brazil comfortably finished top of the Group by five points. Turkey only progressed to the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of Costa Rica. The teams met in the opening group fixture, Brazil winning 2-1 in Ulsan. Goals from Ronaldo and an 87th minute penalty from Rivaldo saw off Turkey, Hasan Şaş had given Turkey the lead in the second minute of first half stoppage time.
However the game was marred by the penalty decision against Turkey and the red card given to Alpay Fehmi Özalan for the foul leading up to that penalty. Rivaldo converted the resultant penalty that proved to be the decisive goal. But more controversial was the red card handed out to Unsal, for his apparent foul on Rivaldo.
During the match, against all odds the Turks took the lead before half time through Hasan Şaş finishing emphatically with a left footed volley beating Marcos at his near post. Five minutes after the restart, eventual top scorer of the competition Ronaldo equalised after latching on to a Rivaldo cross.
The first of the controversies came in the last minutes of normal time after Ronaldo’s run on goal was stopped by Özalan who was already on a yellow card; the referee deemed it a foul to stop a goal scoring opportunity sending the defender off for a second bookable offence.
The headlines though, came in the dying minutes of stoppage time. Rivaldo was set to take a corner and was making no effort to get the ball which was at the edge of the Turkish box near the by line. Rivaldo was wasting as much time as he possibly could. Ünsal already on a yellow card decided to kick the ball hitting Rivaldo on his right thigh. The Brazilian dramatically fell to the floor clutching his face, which provoked more anger from the Turkish players and manager Şenol Güneş. The South Korean referee sent Ünsal off, breaking the hearts of the millions of Turkish fans back in their homeland.
After the game, Turkish officials urged FIFA to drop the errant referee Kim Young-Joo for “killing 70m Turks”. The head of the Turkish FA also spoke of the incident “I do not condone or approve of Hakan Unsal’s action but Rivaldo held his head and fell down like he was having a brain haemorrhage- it was acting.”
However, Rivaldo didn’t seem to be apologetic about the incident, “I’m calm about the punishment.I am not sorry about anything. I am not sorry about anything, obviously the ball didn’t hit me in the face, but I was still the victim. This kind of thing is going to happen a lot in this World Cup and I did not hit anyone in the face. Nobody remembers what the Turk did. I’m not a player who fakes fouls. It didn’t hit me in the face but that kind of attitude must not be allowed on the pitch. He deserved a red card ”
FIFA fined Rivaldo £5,180 ($7,350) for feigning injury and he became the first ever played to be fined for simulation. In their statement they said “The FIFA disciplinary committee today announced that they had imposed a total fine of 11,500 Swiss francs on Rivaldo for an incident in the June 3 match between Brazil and Turkey.”
Manager of the Brazil national side Luiz Felipe Scolari defended the man under the spotlight “Rivaldo made a defensive movement because the ball hit him on the leg and was travelling upwards. The ball hit him on the hand because he was protecting his face. The press is saying Rivaldo is going to be punished because they think that is the most interesting story. But the importance of the incident has been exaggerated”
That incident, and the ensuing controversy that followed, is one of the most infamous World Cup moments of recent memory. The Brazilian national team is often remembered for their attractive approach to games, and while this was the case even at the 2002 World Cup, this incident did dampen a usually beautiful image of Brazilian football.