Diving In Football...
Diving is a sport in its own right. An Olympic sport at that. So why are we still seeing qualifying rounds of an Olympic sport in Football on our hallowed turfs across the country? It’s not even aimed at anyone, it’s a general moan at footballers that do it. Over the years it has progressively got worse.
We’d like to do a timeline looking at the evolution of diving, but this could turn into a very artistic visual, which quite simply I don’t have to time to do. I just want to talk about diving within football past, present and future. So these are the breakdowns I am going to sub header for this article.
Diving is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed. Sometimes fouls are made, but a players reaction or over exaggeration in trying to gain an advantage is what causes debate and discussion on diving.
In the Past
Diving, we will probably all agree was not around in the days of old fashioned football where you could put in meaty challenges and the crowd will roar, opponents would just get up, brush themselves off and goalkeepers would play with broken bones. Those days are gone. Modern football has evolved. It was quicker, slicker and a whole lot more fitness and stamina is required to play at the top level. With this, other things have come into action such as Goal Line Technology, 3rd officials and diving.
Diving was brought to English football by foreign imported players back in the early 90’s when the Premier League began. It was something English football wasn’t used to and back then it was particularly obvious to fans and players, but the divers would often succeed in fooling the ref. These days they do still succeed, but the way they go about it is a lot more advanced.
Key elements of diving
A delay from contact to when the player goes down
Movement that is not natural to the contact, or movement the player was in before once the supposed contact was meant to have happened
Acting out in pain to an area on the body that wasn’t actually contacted, or was at a minor impact e.g. Rivaldo in the World Cup holding his face when ball hit his legs
In the Present
Fast forward to now and diving is a factor in the footballing game. Frustratingly. Personally, I hate it. I’m a defender and I enjoy tackling. I know what’s considered a foul these days e.g. winning the ball, but from behind, or going through a player to win the ball, but what I cannot stand is tackles giving for fouls or worse when the ball is one, but ‘with force’. Of course it’s with force I’m throwing my body on the line to block the ball or stop it reaching my goal. I’m not going to tackle without force. It’s fine lines.
However, players like Ashley Young are currently in the eye of the storm for diving and David Moyes has spoken about video as a solution to picking up what is a dive and what isn’t. What is clear though, is how much effort players are going to, to fool the ref and gain an advantage. Diving has developed from going down without any contact or minimal contact, to kicking an outstretched leg whilst in mid-air to make it look like your opponent has tripped you up. Why would you do that? Wouldn’t you rather stay on your feet and have the goal scoring opportunity?
What does make things worse and is quite ironic though, is that when a player doesn’t go down, fans, commentators and pundits will all say ‘if he went down he probably would have got a free kick/penalty’ for that. If we complain about divers and want it out of the game, we probably shouldn’t give encouragement to players to go down when we know they could stay on their feet. Obviously there will be occasions where very slight touches will cause players to go down when running at speed, but if players can also stay up and don’t have to go down, they should.
Leighton Baines is a positive example I’d like to point out. In their 0-0 draw to Cardiff Baines was literally taken out by Gary Medel. It was more blatant that Djibril Cisse’s blonde beard. But Baines just got up and ran back into position. He didn’t complain and get in the refs face, which he may have had reason to, he just got up and carried on. 1973 English First Division style. Players go down for a lot less and get penalties. Yes they get a pen and maybe a goal, but that’s not enhancing Football and the game we created to long ago. It’s damaging it.
In the Future
Where does diving in Football go in the future? I think Moyesy’s suggestion of videos will be the way it will go. Goal line technology will prove a success over the years in my opinion, so will wedge the door open for other video analysis features to be used. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but referees need the support they can get, especially with the pressures put onto games and therefore every decision now these days.
Diving has now become a part of the game which is a shame, and not just that, referees view more things as a foul or infringement so tackles how they used to be are not seen as much and punished harder. Not a fan of this personally, but it’s how the game evolves. We see much more fast, counter attacking football and definitely have the highest tempo football played in our league. I just do not want to see our league tainted by divers and actors.
In the End
Diving has been a problem for a number of years, but has come to fruition yet again this season after Ashley Young’s dive and penalty win. Something needs to be done properly to stamp it out as it’s not something we want to see in Football and is nowhere near any of the traditional values we love in our game.
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