Diving needs to be a straight red card offense

Published: November 21, 2010

FIFA took a step in the right direction by adding a rule in a few years ago to make simulation a punishable offence.

Nani might just have good reason to celebrate his chances en-route to the throne of the biggest diver in world football given his recent displays, but he’ll have big shoes to fill if he manages a successful swipe of the crown; as I hear Ronaldo’s boot size is a 13.5.

While I usually shy away from picking on individual players when it comes to certain aspects of the game of football, one of the few aberrations to the rule happens to be the issue of diving. A little history before I start taking names though. Diving (also conveniently referred to as simulation by individuals who would prefer to hide from the truth that this has been a part of the game of football for decades by giving it a fancy modern sounding name) is a phenomenon that has become increasingly prevalent within the game at club and national levels, especially in the last decade.

While techniques tend to differ from national team to national team, the idea of exaggerating the contact received from a member of the opposing team seems to be a relatively universal phenomenon. The Italians in particular have produced fine stock, that have managed over time to fine tune this aspect of the game into a near art form with plenty of Oscar worthy acting jobs that got them ahead even if the Italian National team lost out more World Cups than not in the long run. While there is no doubt on the subject of who the best divers in world football are on an international team level, the real masters of the dark art that tend to shine on an individual level seem to no longer be able to hold on as tightly to their crown of ‘Biggest Diver in World Football’ than before. Reigns on the throne seem to have gone from being remembered in years to now mere months as there seems to be someone better out there on a near weekly basis, trying to unseat his highness with one even more desperate attempt at getting a free-kick or penalty he never deserved, than the next.

Simulation as a punishable offence

I thought FIFA took a step in the right direction by adding a rule in a few years ago to make simulation a punishable offence. To be honest, for a few months thereafter, everything seemed to be right in the world of football until the game was confronted with the problem of what to do when an International Superstar that promotes the game globally, decides to go to ground every time the crowd chants too hard. It is good for the sanctity of the sport for him to get a yellow card, but it is not good for the game in terms of the big bucks and advertising revenue to see him get sent off.

So, instead, referees have decided to not give a foul in certain situations, but not book for simulation either. As to what the hell that is supposed to mean, in terms of the decision they have just made, I’d like an answer. Most referees will tell you they didn’t see the incident clearly enough to make a call either way, but that is flawed logic if I have ever heard it when one cares to look at the macro view of the officiating system for a second. If the guy went to ground, either the man marking him put him there or he put himself there. It is that simple.

If you can’t see things clearly enough four and five times in a game, how are you representing a federation that insists instant replay isn’t necessary because it would taint the game? How do you go to bed at night knowing that you don’t have the courage to take a strong stand against a serious evil that is plaguing the game? What the heck is the point of the fourth official and two assistant referees that are getting paid good money if they can’t tell you what happened? Aren’t all of the individuals on the officiating team being paid good money to make tough decisions?

The real truth is that it isn’t really the referees who are at fault in the first place. It is the players that need to be whipped into shape by their managers, many of whom are irresponsibly promoting this kind of ‘take a dive to win the match’ attitude which is despicable. I think that as much as managers might try to hide their true feelings on the subject with the public, their discussions with their players in the locker room are definitely influencing players’ behaviour on the pitch in the long run.

Fans are the greatest problem

A classic example of this would be analysing who has taken the throne of the ‘biggest diver in world football’ over the last few years. Let’s start with Louis Figo who was a downright shameful diver. He passed the crown safely to one Franchesco Totti who got exactly what he deserved when Australia booted Italy out of the 2002 World Cup and didn’t have a legitimate penalty given. Let’s call it Karma. Totti passed the baton onto a young Christiano Ronaldo who is now struggling to hold on with an advancing Nani trying to end his reign prematurely. Two Manchester United players, both from the same era, one flopping around in the La Liga the other in the EPL. If you don’t believe that there is a co-relation between Manchester United stars and diving as of late, then you are either too big a Red Devil fan to be honest with yourself, or are just simply blind – which brings me to the problem larger than managerial instruction and tutelage in the art of diving. The fans.

Yes, you. That I am a Milan fan made the 2-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League earlier this year tough I admit, but I like to think I can be objective and recognise good football when I see it. Christiano Ronaldo went to ground so incredibly easily in the third minute of the game, that I thought he would be sent off for sure. Prior to the two goals being scored, I took the liberty of asking the Real Madrid fan sitting next to me, a first team member at Karachi United no less and clearly a man who knows a thing or two about the game of football, as to why Ronaldo has to dive left right and center if he is such a talent. Why such a huge difference between his track record on the subject and say Messi to whom he is regularly compared by any remaining non-believers? To which I received the response,

“Yeah, well the thing is, Ronaldo trips over his own feet and he gets confused because he thinks someone brought him down”.

My exact response to that statement isn’t fit for print media.

Simply put though, this is the biggest problem in world football. Not players diving, not managers coaching them to, but fans actually making pathetic excuses for their self proclaimed demi-god heroes on the pitch. Fans actually condone and overlook simulation which allows the trickle down effect to make it okay for managers to tell players to dive, for referees to look the other way and yes inevitably for players to dive.

The sad truth is that real football enthusiasts don’t stand a chance of setting the record straight on this subject because they will always be outnumbered by a band of jersey buying, bumper car sticker sporting bunch of band wagoners that really don’t care about the greater good of the sport because all they want to see is their team win. Football has turned into a heavily commercialised numbers game where World Cup votes are sold for ‘personal projects’ and some of the most talented players in the world are tempted to dive to get ahead.

Video replay technology is the only solution

The only possible way out of this mess in my mind is video replay technology, and while I too am a purist to a degree, my logic is simple: you need to be able to expose fraudulent behavior one way or the other, if the current method isn’t particularly effective and people are taking advantage of the system. Let’s just hope they implement video replay technology in our lifetime, or else the so-called purity of football that is being guarded by not introducing it might just become tainted beyond repair.

This post was originally published here.


Farhad Aspy Fatakia

Part-time writer and full time information technology entrepreneur with a soft spot for Justine Henin. He supports AC Milan, despises what Real Madrid have become and thinks Phil "The Power" Taylor is the most under-rated sports personality of his generation. Farhad blogs at The Offside Trap, where he writes as ‘SuperPippo9’.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shehryar Khan

    well.. Mr Blatter has a very traditional approach of doing things and the use of technology would be last thing on his mind.

    Secondly, red cards for diving is going to create more controversy i believe. I think it would be better if they could issue lengthier suspensions to players, that would be more of an appropriate step.

    Diving is an English disease btw :) Recommend

  • rouvan

    completely agree with you—should be a straight red or a penalty/foul (depending on where it is).

    also, it was south korea (not australia) who booted the italians in 2002.Recommend

  • Vasseh

    I agree with you on this one Mr.Fatakia, and i also agree that video replays are quintessential in football, however i feel that it is not viable for the game to have further stopages owing to video referreing. As you might see, in other sports the referee’s dont want to take any decisions themself if they have the option of technology.

    What i feel is more viable is that there is commitee of referee’s setup that review these incidents like they do in red cards after the game and then punish the players for diving.

    The onus is on the clubs and their managers to ensure that the game is played without malice, but with the stakes so high i dont think that is possible. I feel that every team has one or two players which they want to dive around the pitch, its a role now!Recommend

  • Amina Ansari

    A little mid game brawl never hurt anyone eh? Is like tuning into fights IIHF final matches were the mitts come off and the crowd goes wildRecommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    em…how about no…apart from the obvious ABU leanings in your article (funny talk about legislating diving coming from a rossoneri fan)
    how are you going to tell whether a ‘slight’ touch that produces a theatrical swan-dive is less punishable than a ‘oh my he shot me’ dive bereft of any contact? It will be like trying to police thought crimes, positively orwellian

    As for utd players diving, i will give you drogba, chelsea, any host of arsenal players, gilardino (used to play for ac now with fiorentina), steven gerrard, heck even leo messi dives ( i am a big fan of his and i think he’s hands down better than christiana ronaldo), maybe not as regularly or blatantly as ronaldo but still nonetheless. The other thing is diving has been goin on for a while – the 70s were considered blood and thunder in the english game but you still had simulators like franny lee for moneybags city.
    just cuz nani is a bit of an idiot doesn’t mean his dives are any worse than anyone elseRecommend

  • Farhad Aspy Fatakia

    Many thanks for the comments everyone. Rouvan you are right it was the South Koreans that booted them out but it was that BS they pulled that allowed them to get past australia, that will be edited soon.

    As for Waqqas, I have never condoned Gilardino’s behavior, but accusing AC Milan of being a pack of divers is somewhat regrettable. Messi diving? That would be like seeing a ministry that doesn’t work on speed money in Pakistan. I’ll admit I haven’t seen all of his games, but I’ll say this to be a diver he needs to go to ground easily, which he doesn’t. Ever.

    He’s not perfect, but he is about as close to perfect we have ever seen in terms of a combination of skill and attitude towards the game. If everyone was as big a ‘diver’ as him, we wouldn’t need replay technology. Lets leave it at that.

    I appreciate keeping me in line, its good for the soul. Best of luck with the rest of the season for whichever team you might support!Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar

    @Farhad, hope you will return the favour vis-a-vis keepin me in line :)…its all just banter isn’t it?
    i think you’ve got something there though on the point about what makes someone a ‘diver’.

    we agree on messi though, in the words of a certain london based frenchman…’magnifique, like playstation football’ :DRecommend

  • Abu Huraira

    Video replay technology not the solution..it wil be too disruptive for the game. if we are to bring the technology lets bring it for the goal line clearances, Blatant handballs ala Henry. Replays will surely kill the flow of the game. Nani and Ronaldo werent like that but they were forced to become a diver though being a UTD fan myself i have no issues in u calling Nani a diver. My point is that when u have quick feet, step overs, twisting & turning like Ronaldo and Nani do, they are bound to go down easy plus they werent provided enough protection by they refs in their early days which made them to dive to get the foul in their favor and it has become more of a habit but what i feel is that it more out of frustration because thanks to something we call “Professional Foul” and yes a yellow for an intentional foul (unless the culprit is not the last defender) where one is looking to drag a player down but a red for an intentional dive..Nice!! we should than bring a term Professional Dive?? right . and yes you dont have to pinpoint players who dive, everyone does that once they get a chance its just that some are more theatrical at it some are awful divers like Ronaldo and Nani. and once you have pointed the names i wonder how did u miss Pedro and Drogba and its not about one off incident. In the modern game i believe there is only 1 player Ronaldinho or Tevez to some extent whom u need to shoot in the head to really put them to ground. At the end of the day its all about winning i believe. i would dive too but only to get a penalty =). A no for the video replays but probably yes for a red card.Recommend

  • Farhad Aspy Fatakia

    Thanks for the comment Abu H. I didn’t see it till later in the week. I agree that Drogba has a habit of going to ground easily for his size but to be honest I haven’t seen enough of Pedro to pass judgement (though I won’t doubt your assertion). Justifying or categorizing this kind of behavior with terms like “professional fouls” is what I am getting at is the root cause of the problem. There should be no ‘term’ for it other than “Blatant Cheating and Fraud”. There is an incredible amount of money involved in World Football. Betting, sponsorship and otherwise. Isn’t diving just trying to take advantage of that system? I don’t want to make it out to be white collar crime but I think you can see where I am going with this.

    At least you are honest enough to admit that you too would dive to get a penalty. If I asked our beloved Christiano Ronaldo the same question, I bet he’d answer “whats a penalty?”.

    Keep commenting. I appreciate it.Recommend

  • Abu Huraira

    Thanks for your reply. I was anxiouly looking forward to it. But my point is when you compare professional fouls with simulation where lets say a defender is doing his job on the other hand the diver is doing his. Just because we have a name for intentional foul (professional foul) it doesnt mean that its not cheating. The only difference is that the diver tries to deceive the ref but the one committing a professional foul does it infront of the ref (without any shame) with a clear intent known to everyone. but at the end of the day both are cheating. if u cant keep up with the pace of the other player or hes too good for you it doesnt mean u bring him down like a sacrificial animal and get away with a yellow? where is consistency?

    Technology I believe should only be used for the action that takes place in the box i.e. hand balls, penalty shouts, goal line clearences, shoving, pushing, shirt pulling etc.

    Solution for Simulation

    To put a curb on diving i believe there should be a review but it has to be after the match and anyone caught diving should be banned for the next three games.

    Why Review should be after the Match?

    It doesnt disrupt the flow of the game as flow is what the beautiful game thrives on.
    Players dont get caught everytime they dive so red card wouldnt put a fear in their heart & mind but with reviews after the game there wouldnt be achance of getting away with it.

    Thats my own view. would appreciate your commentsRecommend