Diving in football was back in the news again this weekend, with Luis Suárez attracting criticism and scorn from some quarters after they felt he dived to win a penalty for Liverpool in their two-all draw with Aston Villa.
It’s always baffled me as to why people have such a big issue with diving however. On ‘Match of the Day’, the old boys’ punditry duo of Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy debated whether or not Suárez had dived at great length, while the show’s ever so vanilla host Gary Lineker invited viewers to vote on whether or not it was a penalty. Shearer and Murphy both felt it was but 70% of viewers disagreed with them.
While the show chose to focus so heavily on Suárez’s tumble, they glossed over a terrible challenge on his fellow Uruguayan, Gastón Ramírez, by Wes Brown. The fact Brown’s reckless stamp on the forward’s ankle made his leg resemble the letter “J” was apparently justified because “he gets the ball first”.
It’s that warped sense of seriousness that annoys me so much when it comes to diving. It’s regularly bemoaned as something that needs ‘stamping out of the game’ and viewed as being a bigger blight on football than career-threatening tackles. Last year former Premier League referee and notoriously bad counter Graham Poll called for Ashley Young, a man whose persistent struggles with gravity have been well publisiced, to be banned for five matches. That’s more than you get for serious foul play, violent conduct and even racially abusing another player.
To think that diving deserves a greater punishment than any of those offences is crazy. It’s trying to con the referee- as is appealing for a throw-in you know isn’t yours- yet you never see people writing columns about the need for greater deterrents against dishonest appeals. For whatever reason the sinfulness of diving is still ludicrously exaggerated.
Perhaps it’s the common-held belief that diving is a phenomenon introduced to these shores by foreign players that makes people hate it so much. Michael Owen, a man who knows a lot about the subject- just ask Mauricio Pochettino- recently attributed the growing numbers of dives to “the influence of players coming over from South America, Spain and Italy.” Germany's Jürgen Klinsmann is identified by many as one of the founding father's of modern simulation, and xenophobia and lazy steriotyping are certainly no strangers to the stands of football grounds.
Or perhaps it’s that diving is seen as unmanly; a severe wrongdoing in the macho world of sport. Who knows? What is clear though is that diving, while not being morally right, is a part of the modern game and here stay. Let’s hope outdated attitudes about its severity in relation to other offences, especially bad tackles, aren’t. Every team has players who dive, it's time for fans, managers and pundits to get over it.