Torres goes down. The referee believes he dived and off goes Torres. Even after the TV evidence Fergie claimed that in his playing days he would have stayed up whereas Di Matteo claimed an injustice. Whatever the rights and wrongs, the decision killed the game. What is this obsession with diving? It’s nothing new. Any player will tell you that the chances of getting a free kick, let alone a penalty, is virtually non-existent if you don’t go down. And if you think Suarez is bad you’ve never seen Rodney Marsh or Francis Lee. In fact, the biggest difference between those two and Suarez is that they were much better at faking it.
However, that can be easily remedied by removing the yellow card option for “simulation”. Why? Because its virtually impossible for a referee to accurately gauge whether a genuine dive has occurred (except, of course, for that ridiculous Suarez effort). Why not go back to where we were? If someone dives just ignore it and get on with the game. The only thing that will stop the diving is the knowledge that it will not work.
Much more insidious, and much more potentially damaging to football as a great product, is the feigning of injury or to give it its technical term, “overacting”. On Saturday several events occurred which have convinced me that overacting is a distinct threat to the football product. First, I attended a premier league rugby match. While speaking to supporters I was constantly ridiculed as being a devotee of a game that was for prima donnas lacking in manly characteristics (at least that’s the sanitised gist of what they said). Watching the match I could see their point.
During the game there was a head injury that produced more blood than I could remember seeing in any previous sorts event. Not only did the guy eventually play on but he didn’t even leave the pitch. A medic ran on to treat the player while play continued around them. He treated the player who then rejoined the game. Imagine if, in football, we allowed that. Would any player stay down either for effect or for time wasting?
Second, when Andy Wilkinson (Stoke) was scythed down by Craig Gardner (Sunderland) he took the hit, got up, played on. No fuss, no acting. He was correctly commended by his manager. Shortly after seeing that event I heard a boxer speaking on radio 5. He was a big football fan and made a damning comment about the game almost as an aside. He said, “It’s odd, in my sport we try to hide the fact that we’re hurt rather than make out we are”. I thought, that’s what football used to be like.
I would like to suggest a new law of the game to save the reputation of our sport and if I wanted to elicit the support of the Premier League I would point out the new law would protect the reputation of the game that is under threat. Law X will state that a free kick or penalty will be awarded against any player over-reacting to any form of physical contact. Come on guys, man up, it’s embarrassing. By the way, I mean ‘guys’ because I suspect that the same nonsense has not permeated the women’s game as yet. The new law could be called the “big girl’s blouse” law. Anyone acting in such a way will be penalised and generally ridiculed.
Dr Chris Brady is a visiting professor at Salford University’s Business School.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.