Ducking and Diving
Feature by Gerard Bradley
Updated Friday, 14th January 2011
The subject of players diving recently re-opened with the actions of Berbatov and Walcott the latest examples of what most neutral fans regard as cheating.
However, the football authorities, referees, managers and coaches, TV commentators and pundits continue to duck the issue.
THE PLAYERS - the divers
Berbatov displayed his schooling at RADA ( The Ronaldo Academy of Dramatic Art). In other words he cheated deliberately to gain a penalty. Walcott admitted that his first attempt at procuring a last minute penalty was a dive. Would he have admitted this if the penalty had been given and how much did it influence the referee's decision to give one a minute later?
The slightest touch is all that is necessary to bring a modern player tumbling to the floor. Anyone who has played the game knows that this is cheating. Comparisons are made between footballers and the strength required to bring down a rugby player in full flight. Our own club is not immune from this as Mears has demonstrated a lack of balance in the box to our advantage. It has gone on for a long time with past masters being Francis Lee for Bolton and Man. City and Rodney Marsh also of City and QPR. It increased though with exposure to European football and with the influx of foreign players to the PL. It certainly appears to be a far worse problem in the PL, (where we suffered against Everton and Portsmouth) than in other lower leagues.
THE MANAGERS AND COACHES- the duckers
They claim they don't coach this in players but ex-managers on the TV sofas talk openly about players being in trouble for not going down when "contact was made".
The latest scandal that these professionals have created is when a player is tackled and screams in "pain", then rolls around clutching any leg while his team mates race across to confront the opponent. A general melee occurs and the only way it seems a referee can restore order is to book the perpetrator, whether he deserved it or not. This orchestrated gamesmanship results in a yellow or even a red if the opponent objects violently to being manhandled or abused.
THE REFEREES - the duckers
Most fans know the teams and players who habitually dive. Now, I know referees cannot prejudge a situation but armed with similar knowledge, surely they should think twice before awarding some of the more debatable decisions on diving. Referees usually run a diagonal from left wing to left wing, expecting their assistants to help them on the right wings. Last week-end, Howard Webb was therefore more than 25 yards away from Berbatov and on the blind side. His assistant was approximately half that distance and had a clearer view. Webb needed to take his time and consult his assistant as the ball was out of play anyway. Prima Donnas like Webb though prefer the instant decision and duck the opportunity to explain themselves afterwards.
TV COMMENTATORS AND PUNDITS - the duckers
They bend over backwards to explain when a player has dived. Phrases such as "there was slight contact there" and "he had the right to go down" just show how much they have sold out to TV bosses and are not prepared to criticise in case they upset them and lose the contract. Only Alan Green on R5 tells it like it is or at least as he honestly sees it. I often prefer a radio commentary to the TV broadcast because of this.
THE FOOTBALL AUTHORITIES - the biggest duckers of all
Although they can do little about a match in progress and the decisions taken, we all know that they could do much more after the event. Fines or even suspensions do not work so only point deductions will cut out the abuses. We have seen the FA of Wales show a lack of morality, but UEFA, FIFA, the FA, the Football League and The Premier League are all guilty of reacting slowly rather than being pro-active in regulating managers, coaches and players who are cheating. In the 21st Century, video evidence should be used at the top level to prevent further devaluation of the game. Otherwise, professional football may become similar to professional wrestling, where we can't believe that what we are seeing is a sporting contest.
THE FANS - duckers or divers?
We are the ignored sector of football who have little influence even though we provide some of the revenue. If we support the nefarious activities of our own players but condemn the opposition we are duckers! However, the more we speak out and the less money we spend watching other teams, either on Sky or at stadiums, we surely can win over the above groups to reform the all too frequent abuses in the game we love. It seems only the loss of revenue can bring about change, so it is up to us.