Forget handballs, can we not look at diving first?

July 3, 2010

So you’re in the last minute of extra time, a few seconds away from a penalty shoot-out and the opportunity to put your country into the World Cup Semi Final. You’re defending a set piece, your keeper is beaten and the ball is coming at your head. Do you try and head it, knowing you may miss it and your team are out?

Or do you put your hands up and punch it out the goal, knowing you will inevitably sent off, but your keeper has a chance with the penalty? This is the very scenario which must have gone through Luis Saurez’s head last night. Or rather, it would have been if he’d had any chance to think about it.

Predictably, Suarez has been labelled a cheat, compared to both Maradona and Thierry Henry, and FIFA are discussing extending his ban to ensure he would miss the Final if Uruguay manage to get there. Is this justified? I’m not so sure.

Deliberate handball on the goal line carries a very severe punishment already. It leads to a penalty kick and a red card, unlike a handball further up the field. If the officials had seen Henry’s handball, he’d have just received a yellow card. Same for Maradona, yet both of these incidents were just as game-changing as Suarez’s incident.

Of course, Ireland fans may view this very differently to me. Suarez stopped a certain goal through ill means, and although Ghana had an opportunity to punish him with the penalty, they did not. Indeed, I remember a similar incident in an Old Firm game a couple of years back, where Bougherra handled a Nakamura shot on the line and was dismissed, only for Scott McDonald to miss the penalty. I certainly understand the feeling of being “cheated”, but then I blamed McDonald for not scoring the penalty.

So being able to see both sides of the argument, where do I stand? Well, I think if FIFA are looking to clampdown on cheating, this is completely the wrong place to start. I’d start by sending Joan Capdevilla, the Spanish left back, back to Spain with his tail between his legs for his disgraceful piece of cheating against Portugal.

The game we love is suffering from a cancer of players diving, rolling around, attempting to con the referee and get players booked and sent off. Watch any match and you’ll see this is the case. I can almost guarantee that an incident of “gamesmanship” will occur in today’s match between Argentina and Germany. Now this is something for FIFA to tackle, much like it was something for UEFA to tackle last summer, but they lost their nerve and gave Eduardo (and every other diver, for that matter) a reprieve. Is football now a game where conning the referee is “clever” or is that an act of cheating that needs to be punished? If it’s the former, then the soul of the beautiful game is really in trouble.

Handball on the goal-line already has a harsh penalty written into the rules of the game, yet handball is not what is killing the game. Some would argue that it is too late to stop players diving, it is now “part of the game” and we should just accept it. I cannot and I will not, so for as long as I have to I will continue to highlight the impotence of the game’s governing bodies until they take action against those conning us all.

Time to pick your side, folks.

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4 Responses to “Forget handballs, can we not look at diving first?”

  1. Stu Says:

    The thing i want FIFA to look at first and foremost is for them to start punishing players retroactively (i think that’s the right word?) for their behaviour on the pitch?

    Have a video review panel watch games, and punish players for the more extreme rule-breaking. The gamesmanship like that displayed by the Swiss and Italians in this tournament, the players that have had a pop behind the referees back, it all needs to stop.

    Similarly, let players appeal ANY cards given. The whole idea that yellow cards cannot be appealed against just baffles me everytime it comes up!

  2. Mike McKenna Says:

    “Retrospectively” is the word you’re after, fella. And I agree with the concept, but they won’t if the ref has booked them, for example. That’s cos of the whole ‘the referee’s word is final’ thing.

    I do think though that UEFA really shot themselves in the foot when they backed down with Eduardo last year. That just said ‘go ahead, cheat all you like’. Typical of an inept body though, so why am I surprised?

  3. Thomas J Says:

    I fully agree with the article, lets sort out the real cheats…. the divers.

    Luis Saurez didn’t “cheat” he committed a “foul” in the penalty box, and got his full punishment.

    Ironically if the referee had missed Luis Saurez handball, and no penalty had been rewarded, then I would be the first person calling him a cheat lol.

  4. Thomas J Says:

    “Retrospectively”

    That word will sort out the Divers.

    If retrospectively the referee and a panel of my choice, decide that the ref was conned by some diving cheat, then here are the new rules from Dec 31st 2010 and onwards.

    1)The diver must have claimed for a foul (No ref mistake)

    2) The player is fined (heavily) and charged with bringing the game into disrepute

    3)Here we go……. if the action of the diver leads to a GOAL ,

    OR any kind of advantage,

    (Think defender diving and forward not going on to take scoring opportunity)etc,etc.

    Then the diver is deemed to have bought the game into disrepute and so the TEAM loses the match (Even if they EVENTUALLY won 5-1)

    Players will actually struggle to stay on their feet, and if “contacted” very lightly in the penalty box, some will actually not claim a foul, they will just get on with it.

    I know in the first weeks there will be a lot of boo hoo, sob sob, moan moan, But after a while you will see a change.

    I refer you to the boo hoo at the time, when the back pass to the goalkeeper rule was introduced. And the moan, moan, boo, hoo nonsense when squad numbers became the norm for league teams.

    Anyway that word “Retrospectively” and the phrase “Bringing the game into disrepute” will sort out the…

    “Footballing Diving Cheats”……….


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