Refereeing football matches has never been tougher.
Some of the biggest names in the game such as Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Oscar, Didier Drogba, Sergio Busquets and many others, have all been accused of diving to win a freekick or a penalty that could potentially impact the result of a match.
It’s not just diving. There are the more creative acts— like getting hit on the face and holding your groin in pain, grabbing your opponent’s hand and smacking yourself, writhing in agony five seconds after you were actually hit, suddenly attempting to fly off the pitch, and acting as if you’ve been shot from behind by James Bond. All these instances of ham acting can be seen in this very well edited YouTube video.
The most recent controversies including Chelsea’s Oscar diving in a Champions League fixture and Luis Suarez trying to do the same against Stoke City in the English Premier League. The latter of course, had more of an impact because simulation in football has become a norm in EPL matches.
“I am concerned about the simulation and putting pressure on the ref. It’s a tough enough job as it is. For professional footballers to be doing that is just not right. Give him three games and he will stop falling over,” said an exasperated Tony Pullis after seeing Suarez choke-slam himself in the Liverpool vs Stoke match last weekend.
He may actually be right. Ban these football players for a few games and they’ll stop doing it.
Some of the play-acting seen matches pushes a fan to think twice about whether he’s really watching the ‘beautiful game’.
Take for example Sergio Busquets’ incredible act of going down on the pitch with his face in his hands before taking a sneak-peak at the referee to confirm whether he was buying it or not. It was the 2010 Champions League semifinal and Inter Milan’s Thiago Motta was red-carded for his ‘offence’.
If football is to enter this modern era with the principles that make it the most popular game in the world, then diving needs to be cut out.
What is intriguing is the fact that players who are accused of diving are usually top quality strikers and midfielders. Luis Suarez, Oscar, Gareth Bale and Ashley Young (all having reputations of play-acting) are all technically sound and brilliant players in their own right.
No one expects players who earn anywhere between £100,000 to £250,000-a-week to perform a pirouette when it’s not necessary. And lets admit it, it makes them look downright stupid.
America’s Major League Soccer has started reviewing match videos and suspending players who were obviously faking. If they can do it, why not the English or the Spanish FAs too?
As we see in the Champions League, extra referees behind the goal-line doesn’t quite help. Live video evidence will certainly not come into effect till Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini are ruling FIFA and UEFA. And even if top leagues start banning players after retrospective video evidence, who cares about a two-game ban if it means you’ve gone through to the Champions League final after winning on a fake penalty? But it will, at least, malign the player enough to make him think twice before going down cheaply.
Referee Howard Webb, one of the world’s top referees (don’t let the decisions in favour of Manchester United cloud you) made a fine point at a FIFA medical conference. He said that players feigning injury jeopardise players who actually suffer from major injuries on the pitch… and with the increasing number of players suffering cardiac arrests while playing, this danger is alive and kicking.
Along with a huge fine and a ban, players should also be given a copy of ‘The boy who cried wolf’. You dive once, twice, thrice and get away with it. But the next time you really get fouled in the box, the ref’s going to wave it away.
Unless the various boards do something to stop diving, it’s going to eat away at the global game.