Modern Day Antics – spoiling the game?

Modern Day Antics

I love football and always have, but one thing above all else spoils the values of our beautiful game.  I have labelled this as “modern day antics” and it is something we are now expected to live with in British football.

Diving and other cynical similar forms of antics started to creep into the game in the seventies. It was a style of play ‘invented’ by our continental counterparts, and while not really evident in Britain back then, it has unfortunately become an inherent part of the professional game globally.

Many modern footballers think nothing of feigning injury to gain advantage, i.e. to win a free kick in a dangerous position or trying to con the referee into sending off an opposing player.  As a fan who has also played football at a fairly decent level, I find these antics inexcusable.

Superman!

I have seen players take a dive occasionally in the team I support, and when they have it can almost be embarrassing to watch, so you make a joke about it. At the end of the day
footballers are actually strong, super fit athletes.

I banter a fair bit with a particular pub mate who is an avid rugby fan. Because of the way the game has changed, it gives rugby fans the chance to ridicule our players (and therefore our game) that they didn’t have in the distant past. Bluntly put, they class footballers as overpaid, cheating cissies.

To some extent I have to partially accept this one way banter from real rugby fans, as in general rugby is more honest and played in a ‘real man’ fashion. Mind you, if I am confronted by a rugby fan that I have not bantered with before, I only have to mention the Harlequins’ “bloodgate” scandal to abate their keenness to relentlessly pick on football.

I have watched some rugby at youth level, and it’s pretty physical. Even at a young age, when the tackles are hard, they just wince a little then get on with it. If some of today’s footballers took a hit like some of these youngsters they would be rolling around in agony. It would give a lot of footballers something to think about if they were made to watch a good hard rugby match.

Although used to varying degrees, diving now seems to be a natural part of a players skill set. I am not sure whether they are coached how and when to dive, but I reckon that someone could make some decent money giving private tuition to the top players on how to make deceptive dives!

The Debate

In my opinion diving has become prevalent in the game today because of the financial stakes and the huge financial rewards that players receive. Therefore, this ‘greed’ has overtaken the once sporting and gentlemanly values that the players of yesteryear adhered to.

I do not know what modern players earn in win or performance bonuses, but I bet it is not peanuts. Therefore, in the modern day players’ eyes, the team must win at all costs. If feigning injury to eke out time, or diving to gain a goal attempt opportunity from a free kick or penalty can help ensure a victory, and ultimately an extra few thousand in their pay packet, then they will do it.

In my view, there is only one way to stamp out this form of cheating. The players, coaches and football club owners are not going to voluntarily help to eradicate it, even if they do not personally agree with it; the stakes and costs for winning and losing are just too high. Only Footballs’ governing bodies and authorities have this power; in the main, this is FIFA.

Referees also have a part to play, but they can only be effective if the laws are changed to allow them to enforce it. Even then, the referees face a difficult task deciding whether cheating has actually occurred, and some referees would not be strong enough to enforce it, giving in to player pressure during the intensity of a match.

I believe the only way to stamp it out once and for all is retrospective punishment, backed up by video evidence. It is so, so simple!

Basically, if video evidence conclusively proves a player has dived or feigned an injury to gain an unfair advantage, the player should be retrospectively banned for three matches and have a fine of one week’s salary (or similar) imposed. The club should also be fined an equivalent amount to ensure the coaches stamp it out at the training ground level.

So what do you think?  Posts and Views welcome!

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About TheFootyPoet

I am a freelance writer and photographer from Hampshire in the UK. After self-published my first book in 2012 I have adopted an alternative lifestyle by writing professionally for a living. I also undertake photographic assignments and develop websites to help make ends meet financially. I have many interests beyond writing, where football (aka soccer) is my biggest passion. Follow me on Twitter @TheFootyPoet
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11 Responses to Modern Day Antics – spoiling the game?

  1. jgrady12345 says:

    Phil. I fully accept that my views are tarnished by the perceived biggest culprit playing for my team. However………I ask you this. Who is the biggest ‘cheat’? A man who has been fouled in the penalty area many times this season without the award of a penalty (and who is then ‘threatened’ by the players who pushed/tripped/elbowed him) or a team who commit 22 (given) fouls in 90 minutes, receive 6 yellow cards (could have been 12 based on some interpretations), and make no attempt to play the game ‘fairly’? Just in case, it’s not clear, it’s Stoke City that I’m talking about.

    It is too simplistic to suggest retrospective punishment. I heard calls for retrospective punishment for Suarez’s ridiculous dive last weekend, yet Huth’s stamp on Surez remains unpunished.

    The ‘problem’ as I see it is much deeper. Let’s first of all compare to rugby. In one way, rugby is easier to referee, in that, for most of the game, the referee can be within just a few metres of the action. In another way, the technicalities are so complicated that it is actually impossible for the referee to look for everything that gies on. So, the difference is in the word ‘respect’, and in football, that has been going downhill ever since Sir Stanley Rous was ousted as President of FIFA (I’m serious).

    In football, they did actually try to take a leaf out of rugby’s book by making people march back 10m if they didn’t back off at a free-kick. So what happened to that rule? The South Americans didn’t like it, because they see nothing wrong with standing in front of the ball stopping someone from taking a quick free-kick. So whilst there are many aspects of rugby that I would love to see implemented in football (what’s wrong with running advantage for 20 seconds to see if any advantage is actually gained?), they are mostly non-starters simply because of the nature and the history of people who play this game.

    My view, for what it’s worth is that players have little respect for referees (and therefore their decisions) because their perception is that the referee has no real understanding of the game. Just to take two examples from last season, there is not a player around who, if he was refereeing, would have sent Rodwell off against Liverpool, or Spearing off against Fulham. I have said for years that they should ‘fastrack’ League One or League Two players into the refereeing hierarchy. They will be able to relate to the players, and will be able to demonstrate an understanding of what is actually going on, on the pitch. Taking someone at 15 years of age, and ‘making’ them into a referee is going to produce Mark Clattenburgs, Mike Joneses, and, worst of all,, Martin Atkinsons. Completely and utterly clueless referees.

    So, Phil – I agree with you that this stuff needs cutting out, but so do very many other things, such as shirt-pulling, not retreating for free-kicks, haranging players who you’ve just fouled to make the referee think he dived, going down like a sack of potatoes when someone gives just a playful slap, holding your face when someone elbows you in the chest.

    This is just ‘normal’ in Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal (and occasionally Spain, judging by the antics of Ronaldo and Messi (who seem to be forgiven everything just because they are great players, when the truth is that they’re as bad as everyone else), so good luck in getting things changed, because if they do implement something like this, it’ll be half-hearted as usual by the toothless idiots who are FIFA and UEFA.

  2. Jeff, firstly just so that you know, this Blog was not posted because of the recent media heat aimed at Suarez. I wrote this some time ago (months) because these antics are pathetic and embarrassing as a football fan and ex-player (who like you never probably never dreamed of diving). In fact I included it in my book to finish it off as a “last word” about the game, and it was a direct result after watching Drogbas’ antics in the Champions League semi-final first leg v Barca.

    On your first point, I firmly believe that two wrongs do not make a right, but equally, nine wrongs do not make a right. However, I agree with your sentiment that many genuine fouls go unpunished, which in turn encourages a certain type of player to take a dive in order to win a penalty etc.

    I also agree with the rest of your reply; there are many aspects of our game that need to be cut out and refereering (in the main) is inconsistent across the board. The lack of “respect” for referees help them get away with it and that this is a root problem. And yes, having ex-players nurtured into referees will help command better respect, but if the rules are not there or clear enough to apply consistently, even first class referees will struggle in helping to cut out these antics.

    However, the objective of this Blog is specifically aimed at diving and feigning injury in order to gain an advantage and the debate is why these “super fit” atheletes insist on making fools of themselves by pretending they have been fouled and/or hurt. I have clearly stated my view in that it is (basically) down to financial greed. Until we financially punish players and clubs (who will carry on turning a blind eye to it until that are not allowed to) it will continue.

    You are also right in that the people at the top who govern the rules of the game are lily-livered and are not strong enough to create the framework to stop it.

    In summary, I believe that diving and feigning injury antics represent the worst aspect of the game, and these go unpunished too often, encouraging other players, and worst of all amateur players, to copy their tactics. So we should tackle this first via clear and strong retrospective punishment. Once that is successful and it is stamped out globally, it can be applied to eradicate other aspects that were not part of the game we invented.

  3. jgrady12345 says:

    Phil – we are ‘mostly’ in violent agreement, yet I take issue with your premise that this is the ‘worst’ aspect of the game. In fact, the media heat around Suarez is almost completely irrelevant as he hasn’t fooled anybody, and has a couple of yellow cards for his trouble. My problem with all of this, and you hinted at it, is the total inconsistency. Suarez is hounded by the media yet Danny Welbeck, who gained a penalty in the opening game of the season against Wigan isn’t mentioned. And it’s not just penalties, either. Michael Carrick is one of the biggest divers in the whole league, but he does his dirty work in midfield, getting players booked and sent off for (in my opinion) ‘fair’ tackles.

    No, you see the problem goes much, much deeper. Ferguson plays games that deflect focus away from misdemeanours of his team – something he has learned since the famous Cantona kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace, and Pulis, a disciple of Ferguson’s, is now doing the same – deflecting attention away from his spiteful, brutal excuse for a team onto something that, in effect is relatively trivial.

    In summary, to tackle this problem is correct, don’t get me wrong, but there are many, many other things that need to be removed from the game, and we should start with the hypocrisy of certain managers (Wenger – “I didn’t see it”, Ferguson – “Suarez is a disgrace and should be sacked (but let’s not comment about Ferdinand’s refusal of a handshake)”.

    I still go back to the main issue – referees simply do not understand that if you kick a ball and follow through and catch somebody with your follow through, then this isn’t a foul – either way. They should also be made to understand that if nudging someone in the centre circle is a foul then doing the same in the penalty area is a penalty. It’s dead, dead simple, yet the governing bodies and referees seem unable to comprehend this simple idea.

  4. jgrady12345 says:

    Phil, as you might gather, and maybe it’s because i feel honour-bound to defend Suarez, I feel passionate about this subject. Yesterday, I heard yet another reason why we have this problem in the game.

    At half-time in the game between Tottenham and Chelsea, they were discussing a possible penalty when Jermaine Defoe was having his shirt tugged all over the place. Despite the shirt-pulling, Defoe managed to turn and get a (not very good) shot on goal. Glen Hoddle (a guy who has been a manager at the very highest level – he has been a Premier League manager and he has managed England at a World Cup) said, and I believe this is a direct quote:

    “Not a penalty for me. He has to go down in situations like that. He can’t have it both ways.”

    What?!? In other words, what Glen Hoddle is saying is that Defoe has to dive to ‘earn’ the penalty. “He can’t have it both ways” ?!?!? – Why not? The advantage rule is there to allow the game to continue and states that any decision to penalise the original offence must be taken within a few seconds”. Whilst the whole rule on advantage is completely inadequate in the FA’s Laws of the Game, it would still have been enough to allow Defoe to shoot and then, when no advantage was achieved, to then be able to award him a penalty.

    When you have people like Glen Hoddle, Phil – this is why the game has the problems you describe.

  5. Pingback: Modern Day Antics – spoiling the game? | Views from the armchair

  6. Jeff, a while since I posted. To take in your last but one post, yes, I also violently agree, that we mostly violently agree 😉

    I think my point was that the objective was to debate why the players do it, not necessarily whether it is the worst aspect of the game (to me it is, but I agree that anyone may think other aspects are worse, i.e. racism). But to me, it is blatent cheating and something I never did as a player (cheating is not quite the same as “trying to get away with it” – something humans do instinctively for many reasons.

    My personal view is that players (primarily) dive and feign injury due to greed, aka money! Yet I agree that the lack of respect of referees (and inconsistency of referees) provides a platform for them to try and get away with it, and they often do. In addition to having no respect for referees, they also have no respect for the game, or sport, in the way it was intended to be played.

    I am not going to bring Suarez into the debate; in my opinion there are worse offenders. And yes, I agree about Wellbeck, Young and countless others who do it. It is interesting that you quote and label United players a fair bit …. I assume this is purely coincidental ;-p

    Finally, for now, I agree with your most recent post – yes the laws allow too much interpretation, and therefore inconsistency. I watched the Spurs v Chelsea game and agree about the inconsistency of pundits (like Hoddle) and other people high in the football heirarchy, who should be clear and take a firm stance against these antics.

    So, in essence, what are your thoughts on the “number one” reason why a player makes a dive or feigns injury, i.e. the psychology behind his decision; the financial reward if it helps win a game, or simply because they can and get away with it? Or maybe something else?

  7. Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe this web
    site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!

  8. Hi Thanks…. please feel free to come and leave your views on this anytime … the more posts / views on here, the better the debate will become, as I am sure there are others who have other valid arguments as to why this ‘cheating’ goes on.

  9. ivorjohn says:

    you have this so right. for me the one that summed it us was from a game shown on TV. a Manchester United player, he was Welsh but for the life of me I don’t remember his name. Had dived to get the free kick and then winked at the camera. clearly seen by millions of viewers. to me a cynical breach of the rules. with TV covering so many games, it should now be made a rule, if the camera catches a dive then you will get an automatic 10 match league and cup ban and a 5 game international ban too. maybe just maybe this might make a few of these cheats think twice.

    Well done , another quality read and you always find that thing that makes my blood boil about the game too.

    • ivorjohn says:

      Mickey Thomas I think was his name.

      • Ah, that’s who you meant… I don’t remember that specific incident, but there have been plenty more like it since. I guess that until the governing bodies and football organisations do something to stamp it out along the lines of what you have said, then we are stuck with it.

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