“The ref better be looking at this shit, yo!”
A ruling has come down that has immense potential, for both good and bad. UEFA has slapped Arsenal striker Eduardo with a two-match ban for “intentionally deceiving the referee.”
Editorials have weighed in, calling it abritrary and rather silly, like shutting the barn door after the horse has been spotted in the downtown area. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has likened the penalty to a “witch hunt.”
Why does this matter to us?
First off, here’s the video of the incident, for those who missed it.
You will never, ever see a more blatant, shamefully manipulative effort at (successfully) gaining a penalty, right?
Players dive all of the time. And the point of this is that we have two gentlemen on our club, who are getting a bit of a reputation, Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets.
Alves hails from the classic Brazilian, “I’m dead! I’m dead!” school of method acting, in which the motivation is simple: Act as though you’re getting a proctology exam with a red-hot poker. Make sure the ref sees you. Rise, limp around a bit and then back to it, mate.
Busquets, on the other hand, has a more stylized method, a combo platter of the Brazilian style, and the Catalan notion of seny (common sense). He only dives when he feels some contact, but then he sells it as hard as Alves, even as the whistle hasn’t gone, and the other club is scampering with the ball, toward our goal.
I don’t like divers. I even subtracted a point from an Alves rating in an earlier match for him diving.
But what of this ruling, and what does it symbolize? One of Goal.com’s cabal of caterwauling cockerels says that the ruling is hooey. His contention is that diving has gone on for eons, and why punish Eduardo, and why now?
The rule is simple: “suspension for two competition matches or for a specified period for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision.”
Note that the “incorrect decision” doesn’t specify location, as in “In the box.” So Alves or Busquets, or any Barca player, throwing himself to the turf at the slightest contact real or imagined, could very well get two matches off. Eduardo won’t be the last to be smacked down by this ruling.
My view is that yes, divers have been doing their thing for years, hands over a face contorted in pain, fingers spread just a teensy bit, to make sure that the official is watching the show. And it’s detestable. And it has to stop. The most effective way that I know of to make it stop isn’t to give a guy a yellow card, as is so often the case. It’s to ban his ass.
People are howling because the UEFA ban came after the match, in the indignant hindsight of 20/20, buttressed by shrieks of outrage by Celtic, among others. Arsenal would have won the tie even without the unjustly earned penalty, so why do it? Has diving become that ingrained in the fabric of the game that it becomes automatic?
–Is there any such thing as a justifiable dive?
–Will the Eduardo ban have any effect whatsoever on players’ willingness to swan to the turf, writing in mortal agony?
But first, let’s define a dive. For me, a dive is more than making a meal out of contact. It is feasting even in the absence of contact, when a player brushed your chest and you grab your face, falling to the turf. Or when you “trip” over an extended arm, hoping that in the bang-bang reality of a full-speed match, you can sell the penalty.
There is no such thing as a justifiable dive. And why isn’t making a meal of the slightest contact not considered in the same category as a dive? A player is still trying to deceive the ref, right?
Will the Eduardo ban have any preventive effect on diving? UEFA hopes so, but I say no. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game.
Is it arbitrary? Depends upon perspective, but UEFA had to start somewhere. This ruling was last implemented in 2008, and that one did nothing at all to stop players from trying to sell agony. And this one won’t either. Which doesn’t make it wrong. Diving does not belong in our beautiful game. It makes me cringe whenever Alves or Busquets do it, in part because we should be above that. Back in the day, the legendary English club Corinthians was the epitome of fair play. If a penalty was awarded against them, they didn’t even defend the net, saying in effect, “Well, we must have done it, so we’ll take our medicine.”
My sense of fairness wants the game to be as morally beautiful as it can be visually. This ruling won’t stop diving, but even if it makes people think about it, it’s a step in the right direction. Because diving is cheating, and cheating should be punished. No, not every cheater will be punished, which doesn’t mean that some who get caught shouldn’t be.
What say ye?