Going Down Easy is a Skill
Diving is a skill like any other in football and should be embraced as such.
This might be heresy to some. Certain fans unappreciative of the skill think play-actors are ruining the game with their histrionics. Well, the simple truth is that they are wrong and need to wake up to the fact that diving has always been, has always worked and as such should be viewed as the important, valuable and integral part of the beautiful game.
The art of the dive has been part of the game for as long as I can remember — and I am not that old, but I do remember when Scottish teams were a force in the “European Cup.”
Non-believers say it is a modern thing, part of the modern game, a creation of the Premier League, Sky Sports pizzaz and “foreigners” rather than the hard, honest, stalwart men of the 50s, 60s and 70s. But that is a lie!
England and Geoff Hurst did it when they won the World Cup with a goal that never crossed the line in 1966.
George Best did almost as much diving as he did cocaine and Miss World contestants in the 1970s.
Diving is a traditional part of the game and should be treated as a skill, learned like any other. Just like curling the ball or tackling — diving and all manner of gamesmanship should be a tool in the drawer of every player.
If you split a player’s skills into a spreadsheet — think Football Manager — with speed, skill, agility, work rate and all other characteristics, having a high value for diving or histrionics make a player more valuable.
The ability to win penalties, just like the ability to win headers or 50/50 tackles, is an important part of any players game — especially a finesse forwards.
Thierry Henry, for example, gets himself into the area at pace, with power. He gets into a position to be awarded a penalty, legitimate or earned, not because he is a great actor but because he is a great footballer. You can’t just show up one day, fall over and get yourself in the front line of a top flight team.
When Ronaldo hits the deck 17 1/2 yards out he has not magically appeared there. He is in that position because he is faster and more skillful than any defender he may meet there. As a result, referees knows he may get hit and so watch for it. His constant pressuring of the goal means he has earned favorable decisions.
Playacting is not something that should be stubbed-out like cigar (in an ashtray Mr. Barton) but something that should be appreciated.
In American baseball the curveball was once though dishonest because it attempts to fool the batter. This was a short-sighted view of a skill now widely accepted. Fooling a referee inside and around the 18 yard box is no different.
But on top of the fact that diving and play-acting adds to the game, why would you want to kill something this much fun. Who doesn’t love bitching about Ronaldo flops, Rooney falls and refereeing ridiculousness.
Playacting is not simply domain of prissy little strikers, it is done by every player on the field and more-so by those who manage them.
Defenders are now screaming at refs every time a forwards falls to the ground, whether they have just knee-capped them or not. Anytime a 6’4″ 220 lbs goalkeeper is brushed by the end of an untucked shirt they are face down faster than girls who “date” trios of former Sunderland players.
And lets not forget the men in the suits. What better entertainment has ever come from the Chel-ski era than The Special One’s verbal exchanges with Man United’s Christmas sleigh-leading General. Sir Alex and Jose’s spats were more entertaining than almost anything the former Porto man has ever put on the field. Add to this comical rants by Rafa and almost everything that comes out of the mouth of Hull’s Phil “I-Dress-Like-a-Gangster-working-in-a-Call-Center” Brown.
Jokes aside, the exploding-Hindenburg style reaction to the first diving claims of the season have come and gone. As every year, millions of column inches are wasted on each non-event that happens to big-four clubs. Playacting is a big part of football, it always has been that needs to be accepted. From the tribal nature of supporters, to the expressive gesticulations of flamboyant referees, this is a game of beautiful play and a whole lot of acting.
From schoolyards to the palatial grounds of Champions League teams, kids are upending themselves, untouched every day.
Like it, love it or hate it this is part of this game, so can we please just accept it and move on! And, if you can’t accept it, can you please keep your indignation to yourself!