Diving in footy, a.k.a. “The Russian judge gives it a 0.”


“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?

Good questions.

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?

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. ok seeing as I don’t understand most of it im guessing its vulgar spanish so i see why no translation is coming lol

  2. The problem that I have, well one, is that it’s subject to too much interpretatin when there is something like ” intention ” because it’s not just “diving” it’s diving with the “intetion” to deceive.

  3. first of all you have to know that rafa guerrero is a strar right now (the guy calling the penalty and red card, the side ref), he even went to a reality show I think, and he’s been interviewed in TV a lot of times.

    enjoy!!! 😉

    WHITE LETTERS – THE GAME BROKE / kick from couto to aguado / solana slpas couto / AND LATER

    RAFA – Penalty and red card!!
    REF- Come on, f*ck Rafa, I sh*t on my own mother… red card for who????
    RAFA- Number 6… just ask!! … come quique!! He hits his head from behind… clearly… to Couto. He clearly hits his head from behing with his hand.
    REF- What number??!!
    RAFA- Number 6…. Ask Camblor if he saw anything. I think it was number six.
    REF- Is it a red card and a penalty??!!
    RAFA- Yeah, yeah.
    ZARAGOZA PLAYER – just raise your little flag and don’t “red card” anyone!!
    REF – It’s penalty and red card!!
    REF – gGt out of here!! I don’t want nobody to come here and say anything!!! Out! Out! Out!!!
    ZARAGOZA PLAYER – It’s not a penalty!!! Penalty no!!
    ZARAGOZA PLAYER – If he calls a penalty we leave!!
    RAFA – Let’s see.. the ball was “in play” when…
    REF – Out!!!!!!!!
    RAFA – …the ball was clearly “in play”
    REF – but… let’s see. When I come to talk to you the ball was already out???
    RAFA – When you talk to me??
    REF – Of course! Where was the ball??
    RAFA – Ah! When we talked the ball was already out ok… then red card without penalty… but if the ball… was still “in play”…. Eh!! It’s a penalty!!!!
    ZARAGOZA PLAYER – It can’t be a penalty!!!
    REF – Out!!!
    REF – Let’s see…
    REF – Out!!!
    RAFA – Please!!! ( not in subtitles)
    RAFA – When the agression takes place the ball is “in play” so… the ball is “in play” and there’s an agression, therefore… Penalty and red card (penalty y expusion)
    *the ref walks to the box with six fingers up, show a red card to aguado and aguado freaks out 😛

    SOLANA TO RAFA – It was me and I didn’t hit him… he put himself in front of me… It’s always the same!!! Always the same!!!

  4. and this is confirmed what they were actually saying or is someone making a joke cuz if it is thats really funny if only there wasa way we could be able to understand more about what’s being said in the pitch between players referees etc. The lip readers are lucky cuz sometimes what they say seems funny but no way we can know it

  5. journos – when are you going to update the schedule 🙂
    Good luck with the new site, Isiah, Kev and Hector! Have been reading and enjoying it for a while – commenting only today!

  6. Can you find the Madridistas?


  7. Man, what an undertaking it is to leave a simple comment in this forum! I just had to read a tome’s worth of comments and I’ll probably still write an opinion someone else has already expressed. But anyway:

    sdh pointed out one of my biggest problems: that the punishment was assessed after the fact, by video review. I don’t like this, it under mines the ref, it will most likely favor larger clubs with greater sway, it doesn’t take away the goal that was consequently scored – but if we’re going by video review, why shouldn’t it? That (video review) is a subject in itself.

    Regarding this particular case – I understand why Wenger is so pissed. Why pick Eduardo’s particular dive out of the many that happen every week? But that’s not argument enough to not give it. You gotta start somewhere, plain and simple. But where Wenger will be justified is when the next blatant dive isn’t punished – then he’ll have a case. And there’s my second opinion: if you want to crack down, you can’t just make an example of one incident, then fold your arms and say, “There. That should do it.” You card every incident for a month, and then players will start getting the message.

    But here’s a problem I’ve always had with the dive, one that this rule is attempting to address. If you dive and get away with it, you give your team a likely goal, which is huge. If you get caught, you get a yellow card. Those stakes, in my opinion, make diving worth the risk. But what if refs just gave divers a straight red. That would mean if you get away with it, you might get your team a goal. If you don’t, you’re leaving the game. And the next one. And your team has to play the remainder with a man down.

    There’s no video review in that solution, and it makes the stakes much more even. What do you guys think?

  8. I like that I wrote that right after our resident madridist (a level-headed and always welcome chap, i might add) writes something nice and level-headed. Good on you, Isaiah, you partisan punk.

  9. Kxevin – your idea about Team fouls like in the NBA is an interesting one. It certainly would have changed the outcome of the last Brasil – Argentina Copa America final, for those who remember it.

    But I think, to an extent, ref’s already do something similar. Think Messi getting hacked by Ramos and Gago in the first clasico of last season (congrats about your tix, by the way!). The fouls were intentional, meant to break up momentum and rattle Messi. The ref let them get away with it, merely stopping play, perhaps longer than he should have. But eventually, he (the ref) showed that he’d seen enough, and the cards came out (Metz. 22′, Ramos 28′). It’s not a written rule, but I think in practice it’s followed by most refs.

    And by the way Kxevin and Isaiah (and now Hector too!) you guys are still doing a great job here. congratulation on the blog.

  10. Isaiah – I still give Raul a high rating, though! And Sporting stays up again – says the next beer.

  11. “it will most likely favor larger clubs with greater sway”

    Why is Arsenal suddenly a small club with little to no sway?

    “that the punishment was assessed after the fact, by video review. I don’t like this, it under mines the ref”

    No it doesn’t. The ref couldn’t have made that call..if he could have, he would have done so. Additionally, the best a ref can do is hand out a red card, which gives a one game suspension.

    Nobody complained about Pepe’s suspension when the Spanish association handed him a punishment. Why wasn’t the ref undermined there?

  12. OhYes – Sorry for not expounding on my ideas.

    “it will most likely favor larger clubs with greater sway” – Big clubs have more sway, it’s an unfortunate truth. And I can foresee bigger clubs being honored reviews more often than smaller clubs. That’s an opinion, feel free to disagree. And I’m not just referring to this particular ruling (Arsenal’s a big club, yes. Is Celtic not?) but worrying about future implementation.

    “that the punishment was assessed after the fact, by video review. I don’t like this, it under mines the ref” Again, you and I disagree. I think that by allowing video review the ref’s decision is no longer final. It puts official question as to the validity of his decision of the moment, and for the rest of the game the players have that to lord over him: “You may or may not have been right. We’ll see.”

    And regarding Pepe’s suspension: are you serious? You really can’t see the difference between trying to cheat and assaulting a player on the field, after play has stopped? The Spanish Association reviewed what the refs had already declared, they were just deciding how severe the punishment would be.

  13. not even shoot some shots with his kids in the lawn. they should put a UEFA gorilla on top of him and if he EVER touches a round ball again, fine him 10.000 euros or something

  14. “And I can foresee bigger clubs being honored reviews more often than smaller clubs”

    Actually, I can see the opposite. i.e. Chelsea or ManU getting in trouble more often than smaller clubs simply because they are in the limelight more often. As for Celtic being a small club…yes, you are right they are a large club relative to everyone else. But Arsenal is a massive club, and they are the ones that got screwed over here. Celtic was out of the CL one way or another.

    “I think that by allowing video review the ref’s decision is no longer final.”

    The ref’s job is to officiate the game as best as he can. They have limits like we all do. They are not all-seeing. So there can be instances were a player is hit illegally (with an elbow, let’s say), the ref doesn’t see it, and therefore does not hand out any kind of punishment. The ref decreed that NOTHING happened when he decided not to apply any kind of punishment. But any association trying to protect its players and the integrity of the game would hand out a punishment to the offending player. It’s not an undermining as much as it is having more power than the ref.

    “You really can’t see the difference between trying to cheat and assaulting a player on the field, after play has stopped?”

    Please explain to me where I said that there is no difference between cheating and viciously assaulting a player.

    My argument is with an association extending punishment beyond the ref’s ability.. 😐

    The Spanish association did that. They said a one-game ban was not enough, and thus extended it. That’s them having more power than the referee.

    Here’s another scenario: Remember when Henry caused that penalty against Atleti? The ref initially didn’t think anything of it and allowed the play to continue..but the linesman said otherwise and the referee eventually recanted his original decision and gave a penalty in favor of atletico… now why was the ref not undermined here? In the same sense, his original decision was questioned, just like the UEFA questioned the call on Eduardo.. and by stopping play himself, the linesman practically overruled it.

    In this case, the ref changed his mind because someone else with a better view of the play told him what happened so why is the UEFA ruling any different? They got a better view of the play, and they are correcting the official..just like the linesman corrected the ref.

  15. If UEFA is gonna allow punishing a player for diving because he deceived a player, and thus correcting a misjudge by the referee for not booking the dude, they should correspondingly allow themselves to correct other misjudgments from the referees that actually assume a player dived when he did not..
    Otherwise its just a big load of hypocrisy.

  16. If the law was applied as it was set (speeding over limit = punishment) no matter what, there will be no case for your cousin at all. The thing now is how far you can break the law? 2 extra mph? why not 3pmh?because those who break it 3 will feel its unfair to punish them for just 1 extra mph than the rest. 4?same thing up to 15 mph and still your cousin find are argument that others are breaking the law and still unpunished, which for him sound unfair. If the law was applied as it is, there will be no case.

    So, your cousin case (as Eduardo’s) is not that he was punished wrongly, but there was no equity. If someone steal 3000 $ he has to be punished, he can’t claim its just 3000, not a million. So regarding speeding, if the ones who speed for 1 inche-p-m do not get a punishment, that’s wrong. Cops applying the law wrongly is not an argument to give an excuse for others to apply the law wrongly. It’s still wrong.

    Regarding my computer that you break (don’t dare as it is attached to my soul), the judge cant make blind estimations, there are still references like the market price of the pc for example. It’s not a subjective opinion for the judge, there is a criterion. And that’s what the lawyer ask for: what was the criteria? If he is not convinced, he can demand extending the case in a higher court. The criteria is something to set before raising a case. When you judge something, you do so based on an existing criterion, not based on something u create in the heat of the moment.

    “Going back to football.. what is fairness? Should UEFA now suspend everyone who has cheated through diving? What an exciting group stage that would be! With almost everyone suspended and whatnot”

    Of course they MUST suspend anyone who dives! Should they suspend every player who punches the ref? What if so many players punched the ref? See? You can’t create a different argument for different cases. There has to be a principle and a unique scale you apply everywhere.

    “As for cheating through other means..that’s all up to UEFA to decide.”

    Not true, UEFA apply the law, they are not the law. People usually mix between power and the power administration. Don’t want to be at the mercy of UEFA, make sure they stick to the guidelines, or else they will do what suits their own interest. They are not angels.

  17. In the Mexican league (no strangers to diving) the federation, starting this year, have implemented the post game panel for review for a questionable call.

    The thing is, action must be taken (a complaint must officially be made) by the “victimized” team after the game. which then goes to panel and is judged and a corresponding ban/fine is placed if the complaint was found to have merit.

    I think time will tell if this really creates incentives not to dive (in the mexican league), and there have been at least two instances of complaints being made and a proper punishment being awarded; with the 2nd ban being received with more acceptance than the 1st (the player admitted his fault, and his fault was acknowledged and supported by club executives). Hence in the short run it seems to be working.

    I think if they implement a similar system in any other league or in europe, one where club executives must publicly reach out or commit to a stance (i.e we were cheated)
    then there will be more pressure to avoid these kind of incidents in the future. (as the diver’s club would have to come up with a defined or official stance on the defendant /instigator)

    For this system to be successful in europe, UEFA would need to be consistent (obviously) and have some other incentive for (losing) teams not cry about every foul (maybe make the plaintiff pay legal damages if they were to lose the official complaint or have a set number of them per tournament)

    I think that the consolidated stance a team must have with publicly issuing a complaint may, as time goes on, reduce pressure for public inconsistency.
    In other words If Arsene “blindly” defends a diver one week then calls for the club to issue a complaint for a similar opposing dive the next, I think he may eventually receive more criticism from the press, from the fans and probably most notably from the club itself.

    Then again this may turn into a weekly thing and that would be really annoying (a he said she said kind of thing). But removing the ‘authority’ from Uefa from selecting players would keep things somewhat more objective and there would be less need tor witch hunts and accusations of favoritism.

    Then again I am not sure UEFA has the (independent) staff on hand to objectivity trial the number of cases that they would be presented.Which hopefully would be few, as few club executives would like to be seen as cry babies. Then again, club executives aren’t always the embodiment of enlightenment or professionalism we would expect. (one club president in spain even part of a drive by shooting last year)

    But I think its time to have stronger incentives not to dive, and try to separate it from the depths of futbol’s assumed subconscious..

  18. “Cops applying the law wrongly is not an argument to give an excuse for others to apply the law wrongly. It’s still wrong.”

    But it happens. And since you agreed that my cousin has no case, then we are basically done here since that’s what I am arguing. That no one else is getting punished is not fair, I agree, but that doesn’t mean his punishment is wrong, as others have implied and said. He’s being punished exactly for what he did. The lack of punishment for others has no bearing on the law or Eduardo’s punishment.

    “It’s not a subjective opinion for the judge, there is a criterion.”

    Yes there is a criteria for making the judgment, meaning it is not done blindly, but it is subjective, meaning that on a different day, with a different judge, you may get more or less money. That’s because it is impossible to pin down the actual monetary value of a used computer, with parts all in different conditions, and with different undocumented malfunctions as a result of the fact that it is used.

    It is the same for a car. Once you drive it out of a dealership, it loses its value. How much exactly? It is not known. There are values, but they are not absolute they are subjective. The big difference between a car and a computer is that everyone has agreed on the value of a car once it has been driven out of a dealership. Kelly blue book value. That makes it easier, but it’s a democratic and still not exact process. I am using the computer example because there is no KBB, therefore, it is even more subjective.

    Having said that, you can see how it is impossible for law to be completely fair You may have gotten more money than your computer was actually worth, or less. Who knows.

    “You can’t create a different argument for different cases. There has to be a principle and a unique scale you apply everywhere.”

    That’s not economical. It’s easy to believe in that in theory (perfect world, utopia, etc.) but it’s not possible in the real world. You can see how uneconomical this is in these circumstances:

    1. My speeding example. If the police enforced the speeding limit like robots, pulling over and handing out a ticket to every single person who so much as went even .5mph over the limit, your tax money is going to go into persecuting millions of people.
    2. The war on drugs. There are govs that decriminalize the possession of certain drugs up to a certain amount because punishing everyone every time they had any amount of the illegal drug is a waste of money. America still hasn’t learned, thus the overpopulation of the prison system and a massive waste on resources.
    3. Any time you are dealing with a crime, you have to take into account how severe it is before you decide to punish the offender. .5mph over the speed limit is against the law, but is that really severe enough to warrant a ticket?

    #3 would take care of your punching the ref argument. That’s pretty severe, and therefore warrants punishment. It’s not as if your argument is completely theoretical, anyway. There have been times when a ref was assaulted by a large group of people. Did those people get punished for it? It bet you that those in power tried their hardest to punish the criminals.

    Some ass diving at the 90th minute in a 4-0 game..whatever. UEFA might not want to waste its time going after that guy. That is, unless it’s going to get attention, in the case of Eduardo. And making an example out of someone is not new. Lawyers have tried to argue that it isn’t fair, but it inevitably fails. (cough tobacco anyone? cough)

    “Don’t want to be at the mercy of UEFA, make sure they stick to the guidelines, or else they will do what suits their own interest. They are not angels.”

    I’d like to know of an administration with power that never ventures out of their guidelines.

    Why do you think every company is PC now? They’re deadly afraid of any damn little infraction on the rules because if they don’t take care of it, they’re gonna get sued for millions. That doesn’t create a utopia, that creates an overly oppressive environment, contrary to what you are probably trying to achieve here. Pick your battles, is the saying.

    A severe infraction..sure, go after UEFA. But this isn’t one. At least not yet.

  19. I think the rule was there always, and other players could have been punished for it, but in those cases, the club who the offence was made against, did not appeal to uefa, however in this case, celtic appealed so uefa had to act.

  20. OhYes –

    – You’ve got a point about the ‘bigger clubs’ being more in the limelight, and perhaps they’d be subject to review more often.

    – Pepe was shown 3 red cards before the game was over, and the Spanish association increasing the severity of a punishment already called for by the referee is not in any way contradicting the referee’s decision, it is in agreement of it. It’s the idea of video reviews being used to contradict the ref’s decision that I have a problem with. (And just to clarify – I think it’s a slightly different situation when someone intentionally breaks the law – not of football, but the LAW – and assaults a player, than when a player simulates a dive. That’s why, if not for the reasons above, that I feel completely different about video review in the circumstance you presented.)

    When a linesman calls a foul (as in the Henry incident) that the referee doesn’t see, they confer and come to an agreement about what should be done. Moreover, the decision is made that instant, not hours or days after the match has ended. Again, saying that tomorrow the referee’s judgments will come under official scrutiny by an separate set of eyes means the players have that much less respect for what the ref rules on the pitch. “I don’t have to worry about your calls, they ultimate judgment will be decided by someone else.”

    What this really boils down to is that I’d rather not see football become a sport subject to video replays and lengthy procedures that re-write the outcome of what is decided on the field. That’s just an opinion, but I’ll stick by it.

    Hope you don’t take any offense to all this, I mean it in the spirit of debate!

  21. No offense taken at all, john. We are all entitled to our opinions.

    “is not in any way contradicting the referee’s decision”

    I know this. But their ability to extend the punishment as long as they see fit is in line with my opinion: That they aren’t taking away or undermining the ref’s power. They simply have more power. In this case, it is the power to say “The ref got the decision wrong, and in an attempt to try to make this game a wee bit more fair, we are suspending the player.”

    “they confer and come to an agreement about what should be done. ”

    What if the referee, upon seeing the replay of Eduardo’s dive, agrees that he should be punished? If the ref in that game comes with an agreement with UEFA as to what the punishment should be, would that make it better in your view?

    “I’d rather not see football become a sport subject to video replays and lengthy procedures that re-write the outcome of what is decided on the field.”

    Trust me. Neither would I. I have been of the opinion that crappy calls are part of the game, and they even out over time.

    What I have a problem with is diving of the Eduardo kind. When I see that on TV, I am offended. Seriously! So I see this as a fair way to punish the divers because:

    1. If applied on at least a fairly consistent basis, it should deter divers. If Aguero dives yet again, and is suspended by UEFA, that’s bad for him and his team. The club could even fine him if they wanted to like they can do if a payer gets excessive reds.

    2. It keeps video replays out of the field. If the problem is solved in a UEFA boardroom, great. Doesn’t matter if they solve it in the bathroom..whatever. So long as it’s off the field!

  22. I also hate (HATE) seeing players dive – and I’ll go so far as to say I almost hate it MORE when a player for the team I support does it. I even got into a quarrel with a fellow Madrid fan this past weekend over Raul’s actions in the box, which resulted in a penalty. He could have avoided the keeper’s hands had he pursued the ball, but instead he (seemingly intentionally) ran into him. I didn’t like it one bit.

    So what about my other suggestion of the ref handing out straight reds for the offense, when he sees it?

  23. “Classic Brazilian ‘I’m dead! I’m dead!’ school of method acting” HA!

    As an Arsenal fan I’m a bit “why me” about the whole breakthrough, but in a way it’s a good rule to enforce. I agree that it won’t end the practice of diving, but it will limit it and make players think twice about it.

    On the other hand. Of course, it’s not the first time UEFA/FIFA/whatever has taken up a case of behavior after the fact and taken action with bans, but if the process of reviewing a possible dive becomes far too complicated, and the ruling body gets fifty or so cases a week (as Wenger predicted), it’ll give that much greater momentum to video replays, which I’m not a fan of.

  24. My only complaint about the new blog is that it doesn’t limit the page to the 25 most recent comments. I have to hold the scroll down for a good fifteen seconds now. Some debate though.

  25. john: Well, it’s on par with the yellow for a dive, and it’s far too extreme for something that happens in the flash of a second.

    But, if it goes yellow or red, depending on how clear the dive is and where the player is diving, that’s fine I suppose.

    This is more of a sure thing.

  26. http://www.slate.com/id/2144625

    Slate’s Austin something-or-other had some things to say about diving during the last Euro. I’m basically agreeing with SoccerMom here. This guy got a few things wrong (such as saying that the biggest divers are ALWAYS smaller and faster players who don’t have any choice but to sell a foul because they are constantly getting hacked). But I like a few of the points he added so I’ll just post them. I know this topic has already been Hectored but it’s an important one, so I’m still doing it.

    “The scorn heaped on divers usually doesn’t have to do with the logistics of refereeing, though. In reality, it’s distaste for the spectacle. American sports are loaded with comic set pieces—a hockey player tossing his gloves for a ceremonial tussle or a baseball manager kicking dirt at the umpire. Like tumbling soccer players, these performers act to provoke sympathy or indignation. The difference is in the style of emotional drama.

    In most American sports, the theatrics are aggressive. They are not operatic displays of vulnerability. To appreciate diving, we must sympathize or scorn the injured player—we must get into the melodrama. Some fans are afraid to take the plunge, preferring to argue that diving makes soccer players seem like babies or, worse still, women. (Former England striker Gary Lineker has called for a special “pink card” to be shown to divers.) Their distaste for the dive is rooted in an idea of masculinity, not in an analysis of the game itself. That idea of masculinity is preventing them from enjoying a pretty good show.

    The other most pervasive critique of diving is a nationalist one. Depending on who you talk to, Sunday’s flop-heavy, four-red-card debacle between the Netherlands and Portugal was the fault of either Iberian gamesmanship or Dutch fakery. For Anglo-American commentators, crusades against floppers are often laced with a distrust of wily, olive-skinned outsiders. In March, the London Times initiated a campaign to “kick out the cheats.” Playacting was said to have infiltrated English soccer from outside. “It’s crept into our game lately, but it is a foreign thing,” Alan Stubbs, an Everton defender, recently remarked. “They speak good English, it’s not as if they don’t understand what they’re doing.”

    Whether or not you must know English to understand what you’re doing, diving is hardly a recent conspiracy cooked up in southern climes. Reports of flopping go back to the early days of the sport, and—surprise!—Brits have been influential in its development. Manchester City striker Francis Lee, for example, was one of the first great divers of the television era. He won theatrical penalties in the 1960s and 1970s, long before the famed Argentine flopper Diego Simeone took his first fall. Fans who champion the “fair play” and the “work ethic” of traditional English soccer tend to overlook the dives of skilled English players like Michael Owen.”

  27. I remember my own playing times when I once made a complete meal of a slight nudge. i promptly got a yellow, and i didn’t dispute it. but it was a last ditch effort. sometimes when you’re left hung out to dry by your teammates, or if you are totally exhausted from a run up that you know you can’t do any damage to the keeper, you try to make something of it and take a dive. not that i’m justifying it, but i’ve been there (albeit i’m no professional). eduardo may not have known he was going to cause such a fuss, but in the end i support rules against diving. however i don’t think they’ll ever be effective enough.

  28. to clarify, i guess what i was saying was i don’t agree with a 2 match ban for every simulation call. diving is, believe it or not, part of the game. it’s like taking a few extra steps in the nba. you shouldn’t, but you will probably get away with it.

    but a dive in eduardo’s case, where it may have affected the outcome of the game, that may deserve a harsher penalty.

    as an aside though, alves gets on my nerves a bit for not really diving, but making such a display when he’s down or battled a bit. busquets is worse, but he doesn’t play enough to make it terrible for me yet.

    one last aside, i was at the camp nou in ’06 when Drogba (i think) layed down for a call, which Iniesta, to the chagrin of the crowd, knocked it out of bounds near stoppage time. Chelsea promptly marched down and tied the game in extra time (Drogba) almost certainly because of that friendly giveaway

  29. Still a lively debate!
    Just a quick follow up on the Rafa video …
    Poipoi’s translation is accurate, and yes, that’s really what everyone was really saying! I always get a kick out of it.
    You can still walk down a Spanish street and mutter ‘Me cago en mi madre’ (which is a fairly strong but pretty common swear) and somebody will mutter back, ‘Rafa no me jodas’.
    For a while every time Rafa showed up as a linesman in a Liga match 1/2 the stadium would chant ‘Me cago en mi madre’ and the other 1/2 would answer ‘Rafa no me jodas’.
    Everyone is still out there, just a little greyer.
    I like the extra linesman idea.
    I don’t like superstars who dive. If you’re a superstar making a gazillion Euros, keep your head up and your feet on the ground.

  30. A quick thought on UEFA and sanctions on diving. They may be sending a message for the rest of the season, so now would not be such an arbitrary time for a suspension. It sets a tone.

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