So here’s the video, and some thoughts to go along with it, all for free.
Twice this week, Barca have had players resort to playacting in an attempt to affect the outcome of a match. First, in the Champions League tie against Copenhagen, Pinto simulated the sound of a referee’s whistle in a successful attempt to put off an onrushing attacker. It worked. The rush stopped and the goal that almost certainly would have been scored, wasn’t. That bit killed Copenhagen’s best scoring chance, and an opportunity to put us in real danger.
Then on Saturday, Dani Alves acted as though he’d been coldcocked by Mike Tyson after the lightest of touches by a Zaragoza player, going down in a head-clutching heap. Zaragoza went down to 10 men, and suddenly had even less than no chance in a match that pitted a last-place side against one of the best clubs in the world.
After the Pinto incident came to light, I Tweeted that the sportsman in me was appalled, while the cule in me uttered a surreptitious giggle. But for me, the Alves incident is something different.
In a burst of sudden knowledge, aka “Welcome to the world, Captain Dumbass,” I realize that not everybody has been here since the beginning. So they don’t know that I subtract a point from any player’s rating in instances of diving or simulation. Alves played to a 5 against Zaragoza, but got a 4. I’ll clip an excerpt from a comment by Jim, that pretty much sums up my worldview:
but as I said on the Liveblog I can’t even begin to defend Alves’ actions. To me its not about the red card matching Villa’s which I thought was a tad harsh but you can see why the ref made the decision. It’s about how we behave as a team. He was hardly touched, it resulted in a sending off, it was cheating in a deliberate way which has nothing to do with the rough and tumble of a normal match and it contributes to a growing impression that we are a team of prima donnas and divers which may eventually come back to haunt us.
Note that when Busquets was definitely fouled in the box, no penalty was forthcoming. Does Busquets have a rep? You bet, and not one that I am very fond of. I’m sure everybody remembers my vitriol after he got an Inter player sent off during the Champions League semi-final last season. But I also noted in the review that I wonder if some of that sort of behavior is self-defense against the rough play that we so often are forced to deal with during the course of a match, as teams decide that the way to control us is to bruise us.
But I don’t think that Alves was doing that. I think he was trying to get a player sent off, and succeeded. And I just can’t countenance that, for all the reasons that Jim stated above, along with some of my own. First and foremost, we don’t need to do that to win.
Now, Alves is like (for you NBA fans) Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons. Laimbeer was a guy who flopped, tugged, kicked, punched, lied, cheated, did whatever he could to influence a basketball game in ways beyond his shooting and scoring. NBA commentators often said that opposing fans loved to hate Laimbeer, but would applaud his being signed by their team. Alves is exactly that kind of player.
He’s also the kind of player that the sporting side of me abhors, which is why I always subtract a point when he does That Alves Thing.
So let’s get the facts out of the way. Was he made contact with by the opposing player? Yes. By rule, is that kind of offense a red card? Yes. As Zaragoza coach Jose Aurelio Gay said, “Perez Lasa has done a demolition job on us. He has strictly applied the rules against us but we have lost out. There is nothing to say, but it was Zaragoza’s aggression.”
But sometimes, a referee doesn’t need to apply the rules exactly. Sometimes, a player doesn’t need to playact. Sometimes, another player doesn’t need to be stupid. Leonardo Ponzio, sore vexed at Alves, had any number of places that he could have given him a right smart thwack and not gotten red carded. An elbow to the kidney, the tried-and-true trip, you name it. But he went high, which was stupid.
Does his stupidity excuse and justify what Alves did? To my eyes, no. Because as I said, we don’t need to win like that. But my view is just one side of the debate. Another side says that if you’re stupid enough to give a player a shot at simulating something, then you deserve what you get.
Is there any difference between what Pinto and Alves did? No. I can’t think of one. Both affected the outcome of a match, both were unsporting, both were done with deception aforethought.
Now the other side would say that gamesmanship is part of any sport, that the actions of Pinto and Alves are no different than waving an arm, or yelling as an opposing player attempts a shot in an effort to throw off his concentration. That to be successful, gamesmanship requires the complicity of a willing dupe. Sartin could have ignored Pinto, kept on running and scored the goal. It was clear that the linesman’s flag wasn’t raised. Ponzio could have tripped or elbowed Alves, yielding the same effect, only without the red card. Neither happened.
Now, what say ye?