The sore subject of diving has arisen again particularly after Jose Mourinho’s conspiracy theory that referees are waging a campaign against Chelsea players for diving, despite Gary Cahill escaping after a blatant dive against Derby County. The battle against diving is one that referees alone are never going to win. Some players, especially but not exclusively from abroad, consider it to be all part of football, despite the fact that in the Laws of the Game, it says a player shall be cautioned and shown a yellow card if he, ‘attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)’.
Didier Drogba when he first joined Chelsea showed surprise that his blatant diving was even called into question when interviewed. Someone had obviously had a word with him and in later interviews would deny diving. This didn’t stop him doing it though and despite his strength, he is likely to go down in the penalty area if he feels a breath of air from a defender. Television cameras have also shown him feign injury, which I think is worse, as it is trying to get a fellow player sent off.
One of the reasons a referee can’t win, is that when it comes to the clubs and their supporters, it depends who goes down. If it is an opposing player then of course he has dived but if it is one of their own, then the referee has got it all wrong. Then there is the situation where the player goes down and the referee takes no action. As a player said in one of my games recently, if it wasn’t a foul why didn’t you ‘book’ our player for diving? But there are a lot of reasons why players go down; sometime players make contact quite fairly, which results in one player going over. Players also overstretch themselves and stumble when running and go down or even trip over their own feet.
The greatest difficulty comes when a defender is following an attacker, who goes down after what seems to be a slight contact. Does the defender’s outstretched hand actually push the forward over for instance, or is it used it as a reason to go down? How many times do you hear the studio pundits say it was ‘only the faintest of contacts’? Sometimes of course when a player is running at speed, it only needs a slight contact to bring him down. Do clubs coach their players to dive? Maybe they do and maybe they don’t but there is certainly advice given. Matt Jarvis of West Ham stumbled after an Arsenal tackle in the penalty area but stayed on his feet and then missed the opportunity to score. Sam Allardyce said his advice to players is if you feel contact in the penalty area, no matter how slight, go down. And was it Cesc Fabregas when at Arsenal who said he didn’t dive but exaggerated his fall when tackled, to make sure the referee spotted it? Of course if the referee doesn’t see the contact that looks like diving.
We also have players’ cleverly manufacturing contact. Robert Peres of Arsenal used to trail his back leg to make contact with an opponent and some players run against an opponent’s leg when they can’t get to the ball.
Arsene Wenger says the FA must clamp down on divers but what about the clubs. Malcolm Alison used to fine his players. Has Chelsea ever disciplined Drogba, what did Mourinho do about Cahill? Did Wenger take action against Peres; did Sir Alex Ferguson ever take Ronaldo, the most blatant diver of all, to task? Or do they all take the view that it’s only a problem when the other team does it?