There are very few times that I can draw comparisons between myself and Cristiano Ronaldo. Like Mr.Ronaldo, I will declare myself “sad”.
In the wake of recent acts of simulation in football matches, specifically England v Ukraine and Manchester United v Wigan, I have started to realise that the coverage of these dives is growing less and less. Are we finally giving in and accepting diving? I certainly hope not. I’ve been an advocate for a long time for retrospective punishments for diving; I will suggest my option and also discuss the potential pitfalls of this suggestion.
There are very few times that I can draw comparisons between myself and Cristiano Ronaldo. Like Mr.Ronaldo, I will declare myself “sad”. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that he is (like me) sad because of the role diving plays in the modern game. I don’t want to sound like a broken record or someone living in the ‘good old days’; nobody needs telling of the prominence of diving (if I wanted to moan about diving I should be doing it after an El Classico). What quite frankly shocked me during the match at Wembley at Tuesday was the disallowed goal by Jermaine Defoe. The TV cameras clearly showed Andriy Yarmolenko receive light contact on his neck. He went down holding his face. This deserved much more than the ‘going down softly’ verdict of the commentators. The commentators also turned a blind eye to Danny Welbeck’s dive in the penalty area late on; describing it as ‘not a penalty’. The reviews of the match, directly after the game or the newspaper articles the next day, paid either little or no attention to these acts of simulation. Are they used to this now?
Seemingly encouraged by the lack of reaction to his cheating, Welbeck fancied trying it again. This time, he won a penalty by falling over a few steps after avoiding a challenge; if you’re going to dive at least do it convincingly! There were a few other times during the game where he tried to win free-kicks by acting outside the laws of the game. The most shameful of which was going down holding his face, only to stand up again when realising nothing had been given and United had had a shot on goal. But enough finger-pointing, plenty of players adopt this policy and too many get away with it. My point is not to single out Mr.Welbeck or Mr.Yarmolenko, my point is to highlight the lack of reaction by the media to the play acting recently performed. This represents a very dangerous and worrying development in the modern game, the day that diving and cheating becomes as ingrained into football as passing and tackling is is the day that I begin to lose my love for the game. What can be done about it? The answer, as I see it, is retrospective punishments.
Unfortunately my name has no standing in FIFA and they won’t listen to me. However if I was a significant name in the organisation I would be pushing for two things; the abolition of the yellow card for simulation and the introduction of retrospective punishments in its place. I believe it is too much to ask for the referee to instantly spot simulation and punish for it, it may take viewing a few replays to be able to judge it. For this reason, I would like to see a panel (compromising of people who have a history in the game) to judge incidents that are brought up and decide if it was a dive or not. If we can have a dubious goals panel is this too much to ask?! I would also like to see punishments being more severe, a 1 match ban at least for diving and a 3 match ban for holding your face for no reason (this sickens me).
It must also be noted that this has been attempted to be brought in before. You may remember Eduardo being charged for diving in a Champions League game against Celtic in 2009. A 2 match ban was initially awarded, only to be overturned on appeal. Everyone knew he had dived, Eduardo knew, the legal team defending him knew and the figure who eventually overturned the verdict also knew. He got away with it because it was proved that contact had been made, even though it may have just been on his shoe lace. This was a major victory for the Ashley Young’s and Sergio Busquets of this world and a defeat for football. As far as I know, no attempt to punish a player for diving has happened since.
The main complaint of football from people who are not fans of the game is that ‘they are just girls who fall over’. It’s getting to the point where defending them is becoming impossible. Now that the media seems to be accepting these forms of simulation, it must surely be time to act. Even last season, you could watch a player dive and feel that his name will be damaged for it. I wonder if Danny Welbeck will join the likes of Young and Busquets as being branded ‘divers’. If nothing is done about this, I wonder what a game of football will look like in 10 years’ time. It worries me. If you’re reading Mr.Blatter, please please please do something!