In Tottenham Hotspur’s defence, Mauricio Pochettino has more or less openly admitted to encouraging – perhaps even training – the defence against the dark arts of football, in diving.
“Don’t feel the limits to try to – not cheat – but trick the opponent in a good way. That is how I feel about football. I am not going to change.”
And when Dele Alli won last night’s penalty against Rochdale, it left a sour taste in the mouths of those self-titled ‘football purists’, with Alli tarnishing that other cliche, the magic of the FA Cup.
Even Rochdale’s keeper laughs.
— Kolasnator (@Kolasnator) February 19, 2018
Writing in his column back in 2016, Luke Edwards (then of the Telegraph) wrote:
For Hull, Snodgrass’ dive earned a valuable point in their battle against relegation. If Hull go down, it will cost the club £60m. If that point keeps the Tigers in the top flight in May, who cares if Snodgrass conned the referee in a game way back in December?
Diving is no longer a method of cheating, but nothing more than a clever act of gamesmanship to gain an advantage.
Furthermore, the English game’s reluctance to condemn English players – Harry Kane and Dele Alli, in particular – now means that the English Football Association are in a dangerous predicament: ‘one rule for the foreigners and one for the English’ (Oumar Niasse and Manuel Lanzini are the only two players who have faced retrospective action for diving, this season).
Where the English authorities and fans could once leap aboard the perceived moral high ground, and put it down to a trick only foreigners used, the players who could represent the Three Lions are now the main deviants.
Is there really any different to knowing you’re offside, and hoping you’re getting away with it? After all, it’s doing something you know is illegal and hoping to get away with it.
The Other Side Of The Coin
“The dive had no place in this new order. The cheek, panache, and amateurish quality involved in the act stood against the upgraded, sanitised version of the sport. The dive was ugly. It was a reminder of how dubious players could be, how unfair a match could turn out, how much of the game was outside one’s control.”
– Alejandro Chacoff
Winning by cheating, by diving, certainly makes the ‘win’ less satisfying – Thierry Henry’s infamous handball assist against Republic of Ireland has left the Frenchman as a villain, rather than the player with a key contribution in huge moment for his nation.
And the deceit is too much to handle, after all it’s a work place, and you’re conning your way through the ‘office’ – referees’ jobs are impossible, at best, but when they award a penalty, that is later shown to be a dive, it’s the worst error a ref can make; they’re targeted with social media abuse, death threats, demoted to a lesser league. And what happens if they never recover from that ‘error’? Will Dele Alli admit fault? Apologise? Fix the situation? Hardly likely (and even if the midfielder did, it’s very much a case of too little, too late).
Football’s reputation is never far away from taking a battering, with agenda ready to be trotted out, therefore, blatant cheating really doesn’t help the reputation of the world’s most popular game – and the comparisons to rugby are never more than a few tweets away.
I've said it before & I'll say it again,
All football players should be taken to a international rugby match,to show them how embarrassing they are for diving for the slightest touch! #BunchOfFannies!
— ⚽ Andrew Lewis #YNWA (@KAL_EL773) February 10, 2018
Dele Alli, who was given a yellow card against Liverpool earlier this month and Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, are the only two players to have been booked twice for diving since the start of last season.
At 21 and 22, respectfully, the influence of growing up and seeing their heroes diving is clear, with two of Europe’s hottest youngsters reenacting the cheating that they witnessed during their formative footballing years.
Overall, only one Premier League team since the start of 2016/17 season has avoided a yellow card for simulation; well done, Hull City.
Four: Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Man Utd
Three: Man City, Swansea, Tottenham, West Ham
Two: Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, Stoke, Sunderland
One: Brighton, Everton, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Southampton, Watford, West Brom
The issue is one that is rising, and certainly doesn’t look like it will be falling away from the social conversation anytime soon. But what to do?