A source of great frustration to football fans across the world is the prevalence of ‘dark arts’ like diving. Harry Montague talks about diving, and its position on the moral spectrum.
This brings me to the next issue. How bad is diving?First of all you have to start with a simple one. What is a dive? The rules state, “diving is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed. Dives are often used to exaggerate the amount of contact present in a challenge”. The first thing that springs to my mind is that it is much easier to write down the rules, than it is to implement them. The two points that you look at, is a player who simply hasn’t been touched and takes a dive, and a player who tries to force the contact ( hanging a leg out to get caught). Both dives, simulation, done. Exaggerated contact is not clear though, even with video footage.
A point raised by Michael Owen was that there aren’t many tackles/fouls that you can not stay on your feet after, unless you’re tripped or taken clean out, or moving at speed, a point I found hard to disagree with. I have only seen it once where a player was booked for diving, but the foul was given. Unfortunately, players who are fouled but aren’t going to ground are not getting rewarded. A recent incident occurred with Alexis Sanchez against Everton where he was clearly fouled inside the box, tried to stay on his feet, and the ball was cleared. There was a debate on the Christian Benteke incident, if it was a penalty or not. For me it was a clear penalty, I was watching the game and didn’t think anything of it. It was only when I switched on the radio where there was a big debate on how Crystal Palace were cheated out of a point.
The argument that was raised that baffled me was that Delaney pulled out of the tackle and it was his trailing leg that caught him, he didn’t meant to. Irrelevant. No one means to foul someone in the box. Now could Benteke have stayed on his feet? Maybe, but it was still a foul. A week later Palace found themselves on the opposite side of the situation against Reading where a ‘soft’ penalty was awarded to them, another one where he could have stayed on his feet, but was being impeded. Until referees start giving fouls in the box even when a player tries to stay on his feet you will get players going down.
Once again the issue of diving and all of the questions that come with it has been brought to peoples attention. A last minute penalty awarded to Liverpool against Crystal Palace was what got the ball rolling and it is an issue that seems a long way from being resolved. The problem is amplified inside the box as it has a major impact on the game, but diving happens all over the pitch. So what are the issues that need clearing up?
After a result is changed by a dive, you will get fans of the team hard done by come out and say how much we need to clamp down on diving, ban them for 5 games, and how the players are bad role models. We all do it, but here is the truth.
You sometimes see managers come out and condemn their own players diving. Let’s take Klopp after the ‘Benteke incident’ we’ll call it. As I said I think it was a penalty, but let’s say he dove, and video evidence had showed no contact. Do you think Klopp is going to be fuming at his own player diving and earning the team another 2 points?
Now if there was a button that you could press to completely eliminate diving, it simply wasn’t possible to, we all wouldn’t even hesitate, but if you’re appalled by professional footballers diving, trying to win football matches then don’t watch the elite athletes. This is their job, to win football matches. Put yourself in their position, in fact let’s take it to the extreme. Play off finals, it’s the 85th minute, still 0-0. You go down in the box when you could have stayed up, or you knock it past a defender but don’t think you can get the ball, defender sticks a leg out. Are you going to tell the ref it wasn’t really a foul, or hurdle over the defenders leg and the goalkeeper picks the ball up? Are you going to let your striker tuck away the penalty and send your team into the Premier League? Granted that is the extreme, but the whole concept that players should be ashamed of winning their team a match because they could have stayed up just doesn’t sit well with me. You’ll hear people say, it’s wrong, conning the ref. That’s right. So are you going to start putting defenders on the back page, after pulling a strikers shirt behind their back? Or a player who hits his shot wide, but calls for a corner? Both are trying to con the ref.
It’s down to the committees, associations etc. to come out and perhaps say okay, if you’re caught diving you will be banned for 4 games or whatever. You see, right now the rewards are worth the risk of the punishment, and unless that changes, you will continue to see diving. Of course it’s not nice if you see children on a Sunday diving, and the finger will be pointed at the ‘role models’ but winners aren’t always going to be perfect role models, and that’s what makes them winners.
Written by Harry Montague.
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