“Players who cheat are killing the game.” Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, 2009
Soccer, or Association Football, was at one time known asThe Beautiful Game, orA Game For Gentlemen. The sad reality is that in modern times, the game of football has been marred by an ever increasing ugliness. Allegations of corruption aside, I’m referring to the culture of ‘diving’ or ‘simulation’ as it is officially coined. Let’s not sugar coat it, diving is cheating and it is an unintended splash of paint on an otherwise beautiful artwork.
Even if you’re not an avid football fan, the World Cup brought with it a host of new spectators, particularly from countries where it is not the national sport, such as the United States and Australia. These countries tend to follow more physical sport such as American Football and Rugby League respectively.
So during the recent Brazil 2014 World Cup, we have been exposed to copious amounts of diving, and at many times it is absolutely cringeworthy. This cheating is set to continue, as as of the time of writing, only one caution has been given out to a diving player, in the 3rd place playoff between The Netherlands and Brazil. Oscar for Brazil was challenged in the penalty boxin what could have very well been a penalty, but the slight touch by the Dutch defender could not have caused the theatrical swan dive that followed, which would have made Greg Louganis proud.
In this World Cup, the diving began early. Little more than an hour into the opening game, Frederico Chaves Guedes, the Brazilian forward (Fred), took a clear dive when he felt the hand of the Croatian defender on his shoulder. It was as if he took a .50 calibre rifle round to the shoulder and he flung himself back and to the ground, claiming a penalty and receiving it, which was converted to a goal by Neymar.
It is a scar on what makes this game beautiful. Grown men writhing around on the ground after little more than a tap or touch on the shoulder, or in some cases, zero contact at all, resulting in a free kick, penalty or booking which has on many occasions, altered the flow of the game in favour of the team who took the dive. It is becoming clear that this is a major reason why the game is yet to be embraced fully in countries such as the aforementioned United States and Australia, and being an avid football player and spectator myself, it is becoming more and more embarrassing.
One of the most widely spread incidents was in the 2002 World Cup.
So common in fact, that if you begin to enter ‘Rivaldo’ into a google search, the first predicted search that appears is ‘Rivaldo Dive’. If you aren’t already aware of it, he had a ball kicked to him from a Turkish player, it hit him in the legs and he thus began to fall to the ground in apparent agony, clutching his face with occasional looks to the referee through his fingers, like a child having a tantrum and quickly checking to see if his parents are going to give him what he wants.
This would all be gone if FIFA and other governing bodies took the initiative to hand down directives to their referees to stamp it out. However, this does not seem to be happening, and it is hard to know why. Perhaps it is part of the culture of South American countries in particular, but few can imagine many people enjoying the moment their team scores due to a falsified free kick or penalty. It is a factor that has deteriorated what once was the gentlemen's game.
"There are some players who act as if they've lost a limb when they get grazed by an opponent... others spend so much time writhing on the ground it looks as though their jerseys are on fire. It's unbecoming and has to stop." Nancy Armour in USA Today.
However, not all is lost. Not all countries succumb to this type of play. Simon Kuper, author of ‘Soccernomics’, wrote “The long refusal of English players to dive may have been an admirable cultural norm”. England seems to have some sense of the honour of the game and the men (and women) who play it. Perhaps this stems back to The Cambridge Rules, which was a code of rules for football first drawn up atCambridge University, England, in 1848. Cambridge, a school renowned for producing gentlemen. There was also Frank Ordenewitz who in 1987 won the FIFA fair play award for admitting to a hand ball in a penalty situation.
But for the immediate future, simulation will still remain, and will possibly be further embraced by teams in the United States, who may surrender to the notion that 'if you can't beat them, join them'. It will take some time for this type of play to be phased out of the game completely, and until some hard decisions are made and penalties handed down to the most significant and obvious of perpetrators, little will change.
So, all we can do now is sit back, and enjoy the best of the worst in football ham acting!