Simulation has become a constant talking point in post-match conversations, but would retrospecitve action put an end to diving?
Simulation, play acting whatever you want to call it, there is no doubting that diving is a major talking point in football. With more protection being handed out to players and a greater emphasis on aesthetic football, at times, one can be forgiven for forgetting that football is a contact sport. With injuries to star players now of the upmost importance, fans and managers alike are more than willing to lament the officials due to their lack of discipline in the heat of the game. In short tackling is a dying breed.
It certainly doesn’t help matters when shrewd (or devious) players use the uncertainty around tackling to their own benefits. Simulation is one of the many things currently plaguing the beautiful game and unfortunately it’s growing. Whereas we all like to stereotype the Drogba’s and Ronaldo’s of the world the fact of the matter is that I doubt that any fan could search the entire squad of their beloved team without picking out one player who is known to ‘go to ground easily’. The likes of Gerrard, Bale, Nani and van Persie have all been suspect to possible simulation in the past and that’s merely scratching the surface.
And yet despite countless talks of ending diving by booking culprits we are again seeing a spectacle of simulation at its very best (or worst in this case). I personally refuse to shift all of the blame onto the officials; they only get one look at someone running at full tempo before supposedly being tripped to decide what action to take. Even after countless video replays some are unsure whether ‘he deliberately left his leg in’ or it was just plain simulation. If a referee cannot be one hundred per cent sure about the decision I highly doubt that he will brandish a red card to the person in question. No, instead if he is sure enough that simulation has occurred apparently a yellow card with suffice and that should end the whole ordeal. That of course is nonsense. It is, however, the most practical method to use as officials can rest assured that they are less likely to be barracked by managers for failing to send someone off for diving, than they are if they did produce a red for simulation.
With referees more inclined to give the attacking player the benefit of the doubt it isn’t all that surprising to see players tumbling to ground under the slightest of touches. I doubt that half of the challenges that Chelsea’s Didier Drogba received in Wednesday night’s Champions League encounter with Italian side Napoli were enough to bring a man of that size and strength (which he so brilliantly used to power Chelsea ahead in the tie) down to the ground. Yet most of the time they did and most of the time it resulted in a free kick. Is the odd yellow card here or there likely to stop him? Evidently not. But if retrospective action were to be taken, maybe there would be a way for football to step out of the win-at-all-costs mentality that is creating these architectural deviancies. Giving a player a 1 or 2 match ban a day or two after the game had finished would mean that the players wouldn’t be able to brush off talk of diving and face the reality that they have been caught. I’m inclined to believe that this would at least lower incidents of simulation compared to the current stipulations.
A look at the facts will tell you that only Gareth Bale has been booked on more than one occasion in the Barclays Premier League for simulation. He of course isn’t the only offender, yet the English media are failing to highlight this. In the recent match against Arsenal, Bale was adjudged to have dived to win the penalty which put Spurs’ 2-0 in the match. Yet in many post match analyses it was only mentioned as a mere footnote. This may well be because the English media refuse to pose British players in a bad light. Look at how Arsenal’s former striker Eduardo had his name dragged through the proverbial mud after his ‘dive’ against Celtic. Could you really see the English media creating such a frenzied response if that had been a British player? Okay so Fulham’s Andy Johnson had a tough time trying to win penalties when at Everton, but again the media emphasis was on the refereeing decisions rather than Johnson’s actions.
Whether it is down to basic poor standards of refereeing, a blur between contact and simulation, the rose tinted glasses worn by the media and even fans (who are willing to point the finger at other teams but will vary rarely openly admit that their players are known to go down easy); players are simply being given too much freedom and not enough punishment when it comes to simulation. Retrospective bans could be a step forward in the right direction, a direction the footballing powers that be haven’t headed in, in quite some time.