Diving or protecting yourself

there's a thin line.

By Laura Dodds

Football has changed and developed massively over the past twenty years, and as new rules and regulations have been put in place to help ensure the safety of players, it seems that the pride of 'being tough' and showing no pain or weakness, has been replaced by soft players, who don't mind flinging themselves to the floor if it helps their team win a game.

Go back ten or fifteen years, and the thought of diving would be laughed off. No footballer wanted to be seen as weak, it's supposed to be a 'man’s game' after all. This was a time when the famous 'Crazy Gang' were about, with their boisterous and irrational behaviour, not to mention their physical approach to the game. Players like Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu were turning out every Saturday afternoon and placing fear into opponents, both before and during the game, but did these opponents shy away and start play-acting or rolling around on the floor? No, they stood up to the fight and gave as good as they got because that's the English way to do it, and that's what made the game so enthralling to watch.

It's obvious that pride is not the main reason that today's footballers dive, anyone who was on £80,000 per week wouldn't mind making themselves look silly now and then. For all we know the dive that wins the penalty that wins the game, could get them that £5,000 bonus that they so desperately need. Results seem to be the main motive for simulation though, and a 'win at all costs' mind set can clouds players vision during a game, so much so that they are willing to gain an unfair advantage by conning the officials. It goes much deeper than that though, as football is such a result based business, managers jobs are on the line, and if a players dives to win a penalty in a must win game, and the result means that a manager still has their job at the end of the day, is it so wrong then? The majority of people would say that no circumstance excuses diving, or 'cheating' as many call it, and they'd be right, but it's the fact that so many players nowadays dive in the heat of the moment, with the pressures of the thousands of adoring, hardworking fans who want to see their team win, not to mention the mega rich owner sitting in their comfy seat high in stands, eagle eyes over any under-performing player. And this is the problem we face; football is such a popular and important sport to so many people, that the pressures on players can actually hinder them in more ways than one.

Look at Luis Suarez for example, built up a reputation for diving after going down too easily far too many times, and rolling around before suddenly jumping up and racing onto the next Steven Gerrard pass, and it’s for this reason that officials can no longer trust him. When he goes down, even when contact seems certain, referees cannot be certain that his actions are genuine, and this is costing his team more in the long run than staying on his feet ever would. Gareth Bale is another example, although his situation is a little more complex. He claims himself that he is 'trying to get out of the way and save himself and his career', and this is a valid point since his lightening pace and dribbling skills turn opponents inside out, but there is a way of evading a tackle without looking like an Olympic vaulter.

We all know football has changed a lot, it's quicker, and mistakes seemed to punished a lot more, but surely diving doesn't need to become a part of this game, of course it's peoples careers, but what happened to the game of football where twenty two committed players went on to the field, played the game in the right way and shook hands at the end knowing the best team had won? We need this attitude to come back in order to stop football becoming farcical viewing, so that youngsters are not going home and practicing their best dive to show their friends on a Saturday morning. In the end, we all suffer with diving, the games are not as entertaining, the next generation are picking up bad habits, and the players and clubs are suffering, whether they are the victims or the offenders, and the sooner diving is removed from the game, the better.