Today's topic...the D word!
The ugliest, saddest part of football. Is that dramatic enough? I don't think you quite get me yet. It is the greatest stain on the beautiful game. The sin that pervades the best sport on the planet. Right, I think we have an idea how I, and any other football fan, feels about diving.
We've all seen it. Over and over again. A player running with the ball, defender goes for the ball (ok that's not always the case), suddenly the offending player flies into the air, hands thrown up and out, falls to a heap on the ground. Sometimes this is followed by a grabbing of the knee or ankle and 3 to 5 rolls along in the ground. That tackle was sheer agony.
It’s a footballing crime that I really don’t think authorities take seriously enough. The worst part about it is, it’s cheating aimed at conning the referee into giving your team a serious advantage, in the worst cases gaining a penalty or getting an opposing player sent off.Worse yet is the knock on effects it has. It agitates the other team, vilifies the referee unfortunate enough to be fooled, and in the majority of cases they are fooled. Make no mistake it’s extremely difficult in a sport where the referee’s discretion determines just how much contact is too much contact. A striker jinking and weaving through a crowded penalty area who suddenly takes a tumble through the mass of legs being thrust out in an effort to stop him. You can imagine how difficult it is to separate a legitimate foul from a dive, or “simulation” as it’s called.
Another sad repercussion is the repelling effect it has for fans trying to get into the sport. A bunch of guys faking fouls, rolling around on the ground like they've been shot, and immediately popping back to their feet once they get the foul...who wants to watch this?
The worst part about it is, some of the best players are the worst offenders. Players like Luis Suarez (this is something I've heard a lot, not necessarily what I've seen), Cristiano Ronaldo (Although I think he's gotten better), Nani (especially last season), Didier Drogba. Even Stevie G does it, this is one of my favourite videos by the way. These are just a few, high profile players who do it, most everyone does.
Let's get to the solution to the problem. I am 100% against technology in football. I'm against video replays for tight offside decisions, I'm against goal line technology. I understand all the arguments for it, but I like football the way it is. Yes that's my justification.
Having said that, I am ok with using video replay to retroactively punish divers. Opening up retroactive reviews of yellow and red cards during games I think opens up a whole other can of worms that we don't want to get into.
The only stipulation being, these punishments after the fact can only apply in cases where a replay clearly shows that there was no contact with the player in question, that he blatantly dived of his own accord in an attempt to trick the referee. Some replays may show slight contact, "minimal" contact that some people may think was enough to fell a player and others will think otherwise. As long as there was some sort of contact, it may be enough to throw a player off balance, and when you start suspending players just because you think they COULD have stayed on their feet, it just becomes far too subjective.
With all that in mind. I'm thinking suspensions. Hefty suspensions. Players can be suspended for 3 games for various red card offences. Well I say for a blatant dive, suspend a player for 5 games. Yes, F I V E! It could even be more. What defense could you give for someone diving untouched? Everyone does it? It's a habit? It's part of the game? These are all reasons why the punishment should be extremely harsh. The only way to really eradicate it from football is to suspend players for a lengthy amount of time. In normal league play, 5 games means about a month of football. Would a player still dive if he knew he could get suspended for a month for doing it (and with video replays, he will get caught)?
The only example I can recall of a player being suspended for diving, was Arsenal's Eduardo back in 2009. While I think it was a good sign of intent to punish divers, in that case the ban was rescinded upon appeal because they could prove some contact that caused the foul / dive.
Well, here's to hoping someone from FIFA reads this, and enacts the 5 game suspension for diving.
They can just name the rule "Justice".