UEFA handed Arsenal’s Eduardo a two-match ban for diving against Celtic, a simulation that won the Gunners a penalty. FIFA have now banned Chelsea FC from signing any new players until January 2011 since it’s been revealed Chelsea induced Gael Kakuta to break his contract with Lens in 2007. Kakuta now plays for Chelsea’s youth side.
While one sanction has much larger consequences (Eduardo out for two matches pales heavily in comparison to Chelsea being able to shape their side in the next two windows) they both share a major quality: Eduardo and Chelsea have been singled out in a world of multiple perpetrators. They are the fall guys. The scapegoats.
As with most supporters, I am eager to see such diving and inducing quelled and contained. FIFA and Uefa might have the right idea with these motions against Eduardo and Chelsea, but until such actions become universal in football, these bans will remain nothing more than isolated examples. Their effectiveness will remain muted. The punishments singe one London club and scald another, but the problems they address remain unchanged.
I called for Eduardo’s ban last week. But not to single the player out. I wanted to see retroactive punishment for diving implemented. But it must be implemented across the board to work. If these incidents are acted upon only once in a while, the punishment is nothing more than an amplified version of the booking the player already recieves when caught by the ref during the match. In other words, players are not truly deterred because they know they can get away with diving enough of the time. It is still worth the risk to see your side benefit from the free kick or penalty because the governing body probaby won’t go back and review the incident.
The unprescidented ban on Chelsea has more deterring power than the ban on Eduardo. If Chelsea are unable to contest the decision, clubs will have to take pause and ponder their future transfer windows before they consider similar swoops on contracted players. But as this is a lone punishment in a long history of transfer market conniving, it is hard to take it too seriously. If FIFA hand out a similar sanction the next time a club induces a player to break contract, we might see some effect. But at the moment it looks like FIFA are simply coming down on Chelsea. The fall guys.
FIFA and Uefa are headed in the right direction. Only they are full of too much hesitation. Eduardo and Chelsea feel persecuted because they are singled out. It would be much harder to complain if these punishments were systematized.
The governing bodies won’t eradicate cheating. Not on the pitch and not behind the scenes. But they could quell it and give it little room to breathe if they woud only commit to fighting cheating consistently and fairly.
If the next Champions League dive brings on an investigation or if the next transfer window infringment spawns a punishment, then the bans from the last week will make more sense. For now they are barely more than symbolic gestures. Uncredible. Unimpressive. Impotent.