Sunday, April 22, 2012

Diving and Faking - The Bane of the Beautiful Game

photo by Christophe ALARYvia PhotoRee

Columnist Scott with a plea for help:

With a seemingly recent surge in diving, combined with comments thereabout from players, coaches and reporters alike, the time is ripe for a frank discussion about an essentially accepted practice that brings shame and ridicule to our beloved sport - Diving and Faking.

First, it would behoove our discussion to clearly define the aforementioned capitalized terms. Diving, as I see it, is the nefarious act of intentionally falling to the ground when there is no, OR VERY LITTLE, contact from the opposing team, in an effort to draw a free kick, penalty or red/yellow card for the opponent (e.g., Luis Suarez often, Craig Bellamy dramatically against Everton, Andy Carroll comically against Newcastle, two thirds of any top Spanish team  etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum).

Faking is the spineless act of pretending to have been hurt during a Dive in order to either waste time or bolster one's specious case for said free kick, penalty or red/yellow card (e.g., James Perch and the phantom Pepe Reina headbutt). I should note, before proceeding, that attempting to coax an unwarranted red or yellow card for an opposing player is the most insidious act in soccer.  Such chicanery not only is cheating in the instant situation, but also conspires to gain an unfair and undeserved advantage during the balance of the game through an ill-gotten numerical advantage. Even worse, while the numerical advantage does not carry over to the following game, the services of the aggrieved player are not available, often to the detriment of that team (e.g., Ashley Young/Shaun Derry).

I didn't see the Chelsea/Barcelona game but I read on these fine pages, in two exquisitely written and incisive pieces by each of Messieurs Ed and Farlie, that Didier Drogba was the Diving/Faking menace personified, through acrobatic self-flinging and Emmy award-winning (Oscar? Come on, he's a football player, not Meryl Streep) "pain-induced" grass-stained writhing. To those (hopefully few) who say such antics are part of the game I say "NO THEY ARE NOT"!

Just because something seems to be accepted at times does not make it right or "part of the game."  Just as the blatant pushing, pulling and holding that goes on in the box during corners and free kicks is not part of the game and should be stamped out, as Correspondent Ed has wisely pointed out on these pages previously, and on which I hope he will expound someday.

In competitive situations, human nature incrementally pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable - especially when failing to do so results in unfair advantages to the opposition. As such, the players themselves cannot be relied upon to "change their ways" any more than a child who has consistently gotten away with crying to get what he/she wants can be relied upon to alter that behavior without intervention.  Some may object to my childlike analogy but I think it especially apropos.  The deception involved in Diving is exactly the same behavior in a child still learning right from wrong.

Further, the physical manifestations of Faking are nothing more than an adult temper tantrum.  And, finally, just like unchecked inappropriate behavior from a child leads to a maladjusted, potentially harmful adult, failing to effectively deal with the Diving/Faking disease will surely lead to the football equivalent of a serial criminal offender.

So, with the problem clearly defined, and the potential consequences metaphorically and, admittedly, perhaps hyperbolically, illustrated, what is to be done?  Well, as I explained before, the players themselves cannot be relied upon to change their ways.  Nor do I think that the referees during the games can fix the problem, although I think that is part of the solution.  I'm all for referees handing out yellow cards for Diving and Faking.  The challenge is that there is much to monitor during a game and things move very quickly, making subterfuge especially effective.

As I've stated on these pages before, an actor's fake stage-punch can be very convincing, so imagine trying to discern real from simulation at full speed while sprinting down the field with your whistle.  As anyone who has been a referee can tell you, it's a lot harder than watching on TV with the benefit of close-ups and instant replay. But as has also been suggested (if not implored) previously on these pages, again by each of Messieurs Ed and Farlie, dispensing yellow cards after each game, as necessary, would be incredibly effective.  Just like that damn red light camera that finally got me to come to a full stop before making a right turn off of US1 onto Hallandale Beach Blvd., video review after the fact can catch what the referees cannot.

The problem is evident, the technology is available and the solution is clear.  And, remember, retroactive cards as well as the severity of bans are already the result of post-game video review. All that is needed is the will.  

But I am here to go a step further which I believe will completely eradicate this despicable practice: sanction coaches who make excuses for their Diving/Faking players.  Certainly Kenny Dalglish needs to stop "protecting" Suarez.  But I would also throw Sir Alex Ferguson into the mix, as well, as my respect for him waxed then waned when I read his comments regarding Ashley Young's behavior.

First, upon reading the title of the article ("Ferguson Warns Ashley Young about Diving"), my admiration for the septuagenarian Scot swelled.  Then, I read that his comment, in  which he stated
"...if [Clark] doesn't bring him down, Ashley's going to score. It was a clear goalscoring opportunity and he did catch him.  I'm not sure Ashley tried to get the penalty kick but he certainly went down quickly."  

Really?!  If Young was so sure to score, why didn't he just do that instead of clearly diving?  And Clark did "catch" him and Ashley "went down quickly," but that's not a Dive?  Worst attempt to set things right ever - it was nothing more than a backhanded excuse. Diving/Faking is a serious and growing blight on our sport that cannot be treated by a slight turn of any dial. Rather, swift and decisive action must be taken to stamp out this weed-like behavior before it irrevocably chokes the life out of our verdant pitches and permanently disfigures the beautiful game.

This is farlieonfootie for April 22

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