It’s the year 2012. There’s a double dip recession in full swing, banks are wasting your money, floods are hitting places you’ve never heard of and politicians seem more intent on arguing over policy than actually doing anything proactive to help the country as a whole.
So, plenty to moan about then. But despite all these genuine problems that effect everyone, over on planet football we live in a bubble where all the problems outlined above are secondary to the real devil of society – the dreaded batch of humans known as diving footballers.
Quite how and where this trend of targeted cheating began is unknown (it even has traces back to early 50’s/60’s), but what started as a few obnoxious human beings deceiving the game by throwing themselves to the floor in an attempt to “win” a set piece/penalise another is now a worldwide epidemic. Everywhere you look a pansy-like cheat is hitting the deck under minimal duress and there seems to be no end in sight.
In the Premier League we’ve had a heavy truck load of examples from recent years – Andy Carroll, Steven Gerrard, (I know, British players, heaven forbid BBC!) Didier Drogba, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben, El Hadji Diouf, from my own team Morten Gamst Pedersen and of course the new master, Ashley Young. All it takes is a clip, a less than fresh breath down the neck or a stray leg dangling somewhere within a kilometre of a football player and you know what’s coming… on the floor, sprawled out like a helpless dolphin and with arms out in disgust when the whistle isn’t blown.
It’s a dreadful habit and one that should have never found it’s way into the game. Sure, it provides an advantage to a team and it is a cheap one to gain given the ease of the act as it takes up a lot less effort than actually, heaven forbid, finding a creative route to goal. It’s also an area of the game which benefits from that grey area – without a brain scan or a Jeremy Kyle style lie detector how are we to truly know whether a certain incident was truly “simulation”? It’s almost too easy to say given the nature of a lot of top flight footballers nowadays but the players who buy into this farce should be ashamed of themselves.
But should they? How much blame can we attribute to these cavalier millionaires who in some cases might be following orders from the touchline or simply following the examples set to them by more experienced players and former pros that paved the way for them? Or developing the idea further, how much blame should we place on the games governing bodies which have done very little above the bare minimum to deter the diving culture which is now in the sport?
For all the vitriol and abuse aimed at the players who take these tumbles, why are we not looking further afield at influences that directly affect player behaviour?
The referees have got the power to brandish a yellow card as a punishment for simulation but in the modern game all it takes is one mistake from the man wearing the black outfit for a torrent of accusations of ineptness and “bias” from the victims manager in a post match press conference to surface. So unless they are given fairly undeniable proof that a player has gone down unprovoked, why risk the wrath of a power wielding boss? Or by proxy spend the next week being mocked by tabloid press and have future appearances put in jeopardy by the Referees Association? The refs are sitting ducks and can only do so much.
The game itself has the power to deal with the divers but chooses not to do anything.
We see up to 15-20 exaggerated falls a game as a direct result of the likes of FIFA and, in a more micro environment, UEFA and the individual league’s all powerful governing bodies, doing nothing useful to prevent it becoming an even more frequent problem. There are no retrospective penalties levied against clubs or players who are caught diving as there are for other offences such as bad tackles that go unpunished during games or for frivolous appeals against red cards dished out during a match.
So we have to wonder why. We are often told by football’s big players that diving is a problem and something that shouldn’t exist in the game but unless some proper measures are put in place to combat it then how will it ever be beaten?
So alongside the game going all kung fu on racist behaviour and player’s unveiling betting firms on their ludicrously coloured underwear there should be room on the discussion table for a way to combat diving.
The players deserve their portion of the blame but there should be some finger pointing aimed elsewhere too. However, with the amount of time it’s taking to push through goal-line technology, we’d be wise not to hold our breath when waiting for the footballing authorities to tackle diving.