It’s a topic that seems to occur every week, a topic that everyone is certain they know everything about and it’s always clear cut – it’s either a dive or not a dive. There’s the blatant dives, there is the exaggeration dives, there are the going-down-before-being-brought-down dives and there is being fouled. With a few more to add to the growing repertoire this weekend, there needs to be more strict rules to define what is a dive, what isn’t and which should be punished.
So the main “culprit” of the weekend was the accused dive of George Boyd where he’s going to ground before being clearly touched by Joe Hart, infuriating the England goalkeeper. It’s one of those where, if he stays on his feet, he’ll probably be brought down and penalty given but he chose not to. “So why throw yourself down before contact?” most would ask but there are bigger questions to fry on this kind of “cheating”, with the big one being is it actually cheating?
As said in the example above, it’s pretty much been agreed that had he stayed on his feet he’d have been brought down and given the referee a decision to make. Hart has missed the ball, Boyd is close enough to catch up to the ball if he’s not caught and that all points to penalty, so why if Boyd tries to avoid being hurt in the challenge is he punished?
That is an if though, he doesn’t look like he’s trying to avoid contact like other divers, so why has he thrown himself to ground with such ease? To possibly explain that, let’s look at a potential penalty that probably should have been given to Suarez at the weekend.
Suarez has managed to create himself some space, running at Phil Jones, when Marouane Fellaini runs back a little clumsily, clipping the Liverpool forward once when he’s entering the box and again later on when Jones almost wins the ball back. He’s clearly impeded, although by accident, and it should be a penalty. But possibly due to reputation, because Suarez doesn’t fall to the ground the referee is unsure if the contact has stopped the Uruguayan enough to give a spot-kick.
This is the real reason that diving is such a murky area within football. If you don’t throw yourself to the ground every time you’ve been touched, you aren’t going to win anything because a referee will feel that you’ve not been fouled. It’s a problem that should be sorted in the rule books, because then you start getting incredibly odd-looking penalties.
Which leads on to the final example of the weekend in Everton’s victory against Cardiff, where Deulofeu is kicked on the shin by Cala in the box, with him ceremoniously hitting the turf. The commentator on Match of the Day said that he’d seen them given and whilst they might be a penalty, there’s no need to throw yourself down because of it. Or is there?
It all comes full circle, that’s probably why Boyd felt the need to jump before he was pushed because he wouldn’t win a penalty otherwise. The contact might not have been strong enough to pull him down or he’s anticipated the hit and gone wild. It’s not at all acceptable but it’s the rules that are creating these situations for the players where they have to make these decisions in a short space of time.
There needs to be more black and white rulings for diving, especially in these grey areas. If a player simulates contact before contact, that should always be a booking and likewise, should a player be fouled in the box but remain on his feet, play any kind of advantage then pull back for the penalty.
If the governing body really wants diving to be taken out of football, it needs to be more consistent with decisions and with the punishments dealt. The players should take the majority of the blame but at the same time, the choice of doing it should be taken out of their hands unless they want to be punished. It’s not only detrimental to the spirit of the game, it’s ruining the art of the slide tackle and it’s hurting the credibility of it’s top stars.
It’s good to see managers like Tony Pulis and Steve Bruce take action against their own players doing it and more should follow suit. It might even take video replays or retrospective action to completely eradicate the problem but with some changes that are easier for people to digest, they can at least look to be trying to deal with the diving epidemic.