Once again this season, diving has become one of the most talked about controversies in the sport. It has almost become so instilled in today’s game that when young kids see their idols do it on television, they automatically presume that they should do it too to become like one of their idols in the sport, which cannot not be good.
I’m writing this on the night after Manchester United’s away draw to Real Sociedad in the Champions League where Ashley Young was subject to yet another dive, one of many thought to have been performed this season by him, in winning United a penalty. Subsequently, the penalty was missed by Robin Van Persie which would have been the compensation sought by Real Sociedad.
Eamonn Dunphy, a pundit on Irelands RTE network labelled it as a ‘cancer’ in the game and something which we have to erase quickly before it gets out of control. I am picking out Ashley Young here as an example, because I am a Manchester United fan and I want to see our team do well in every competition that we participate in. In spite of that though, I must admit there was a part of me that said you know what, I’m kind of glad he missed that penalty in some ways. Ashley has not only damaged his reputation as a Manchester United player but also his chances of making the plane for Brazil next year for the World Cup, which must have taken a serious blow this season because of his actions.
More than just the one
I was picking out Ashley Young, from a Manchester United point of view. I am sure that there at least one or two players from clubs across Europe, including the Premier League that have dived on occasion and in some instances, too many occasions. When Didier Drogba was at Chelsea he famously confessed to diving in a post match interview when he said ‘maybe sometimes I dive’. Luis Suárez from Liverpool last season came in for strong criticism from the English Press and also from the then Everton manager David Moyes for his acts of simulation.
When Manchester United played Chelsea at Old Trafford towards the end of last season, David Luiz was spotted laughing while on the ground after being tackled somewhat fairly it seemed by Rafael. Luiz’s actions resulted in Rafael being sent off. This isn’t right. To some, it seems that we see a lot of this happening in in the Americas and also other parts of Europe, more so than the English Premier League. Neymar was also a player that I myself heavily criticised for diving after the Confederations Cup this year.
Punishment of a yellow card is not enough
The punishment for diving in a game anywhere in the world nowadays is a yellow card and a free kick to the opposing team for the offence. Many pundits and experts feel that this is not enough for committing the offence. Personally I think that there should be a red card given for the offence which would bring a stop to eventually. Nevertheless, diving is a very subjective matter. In many cases in an incident , pundits are often left undecided on whether the case was a fair one or else was the player actually fouled.
Gary Neville on Sky Sports after the match the other night commented by saying that if you put your arm out as a defender in Europe, you run the risk of the attacker gaining an advantage against you by coming inside and drawing the contact. Gary was extremely biased in my view and to be fair to him he very rarely is!
David Moyes came out in the press conference after by saying ‘that the referee made the decision which he seemed fit to give’, basically saying, I don’t want anything to do with this. Moyes warned Young publicly at the start of the season after United beat Crystal Palace at Old Trafford where Young was caught in the act again, about simulation saying that he has no time for it and doesn’t want to see it. Perhaps if managers had such a strong opinion on the matter like David Moyes, they would consider dropping the player if he was to continue doing it on a consistent basis? We haven’t seen a lot of Young this season so far, the reason being perhaps Moyes took the necessary steps in dealing with the diving issue.
Radical steps need to be taken by FIFA and UEFA
At the end of it all, the buck stops with FIFA, and UEFA to a certain degree. It seems though that Sepp Blatter’s laid back approach to most topics in the last year or two have become somewhat put on the long finger for now, an example being the controversy surrounding the awarding of the FIFA World cup in 2022 to Qatar, with Platini from UEFA backing Blatters style by saying ‘it’s ages away!’
Seriously though, how long can this go on for before it becomes something that we teach young kids to do in training, before it all of a sudden becomes something correct to do in a game? The way some players carry on with persistent acts of simulation in both Europe and throughout the world in football is nothing short of a disgrace. FIFA need to grab a hold of this ‘cancer’ in our game before it spreads rapidly, by that I mean before it spreads to those learning the game at a young age. After all, we don’t want a bunch of divers running around playing in sweltering temperatures in Qatar in 2022 on the worlds biggest stage, do we?