For many, cheating is an ugly blight on the beautiful game. Players who break the rules are regularly vilified and criticized. But cheating, when used effectively, can be a great way to help your team out. It is so much easier to score from the penalty spot than from open play with all those pesky defenders around. And you can control the ball so much better with your hand than with your feet. That’s just common sense. And if you want to master such skills for yourself, it is always best to look to the professionals for guidance. So here are some different styles of cheating, brought to you by some of the very best. Read them and learn…
The Eduardo - Eduardo’s dive for Arsenal against Celtic earlier in the year has been a big talking point since it effectively killed Celtic’s Champions League dreams. But its value to us students lies in its simplicity. Eduardo cruised into space with the ball at his feet and saw the keeper coming toward him. Eduardo kicked the ball forward as Boruc was sliding in and then Eduardo dived. Notice how as he starts the dive he throws his feet underneath his body, almost standing on his tiptoes for a nanosecond. This simulates the body language of being tripped, so even though Boruc is completely behind him, Eduardo is able to hurl his body forward in a convincing manner. The lesson: Good acting is key to a successful dive or simulation.Video. (For further reading pick up a copy of Stanislavski’s A Filthy Diver Prepares.)
The N’Gog - Liverpool’s David N’Gog is a novice, but we can still learn from him and his successful dive against Birmingham City. While he didn’t sell his motion as well as Eduardo (and while the defender’s leg didn’t come anywhere near him), N’Gog remembered an important fact: refereeing is a tough job and there are unwritten rules in professional football that allow the officials to drink before work to help ease their nerves. Unfortunately, the alcohol can at times impair vision, leading to most of the bad offside calls and disallowed goals that we see. But that’s a small price to pay in exchange for having relaxed officials who can bear waking up in the morning. The lesson: When in doubt: dive. The ref is probably drunk. Video.
(Note: Readers may wonder why I’m not bringing up Steven Gerrard in this piece. As a Liverpool supporter, I can only be honest with myself about one LFC player per article. Besides Gerrard never cheats. Next you’re going to tell me Bill Clinton cheated. Absurd. The man said he didn’t have sexual relations with that woman. That’s good enough for me.)
The Pedersen – Most players will wait until their opponent is near them before falling to the ground. This helps convince the ref contact has been made. But Blackburn’s Morgen Gamst Pedersen knows this is a good way to get yourself hurt. What’s the point of a good dive if you are only going to impale yourselves on your opponents studs or get your legs tangled up with his on the way down? Take a page out of MGP’s book from his dive against Arsenal and go down before the defender is anywhere near you. While this is less likely to get the call, it decreases the likelihood of a torn hamstring or broken metatarsal. Also it keeps you safe from your “tackler’s” potentially violent outburst if you are actually awarded the penalty. The lesson: Live to dive another day.Video.
The Drogba - From Didier Drogba we look to no one incident, but an overall routine. Drogba will go through a similar series of steps for each dive, fine-tuning his art with every tumble:
1.) Even if you are the sturdiest, strongest player around, make sure to fall down after the slightest of touches from anybody.
2.) Once down roll around on the ground clutching your shin and scrunching up your face in pain like you’re having your gall bladder removed without any anesthesia.
3.) Now – and this is the most important part – once play resumes, get up and run around like nothing was ever wrong with you. Lesser players would limp about and pretend to still be hurt or – even worse – stay off the pitch while getting examined by the physios. This is wrong! Think of how many other diving opportunities you are missing when you waste time like that!
The lesson: Get on with it. Don’t let one dive run your life. Get up and get ready for the next chance to cheat.
The Ronaldo - Once you’ve mastered The Pedersen and perfected The Drogba, you are ready for The Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo has taken his world-class level of control with the ball and translated it to a world-class level of diving. Notice in the slow-motion part of the video (complete with lilting opera music in the background to emphasize the artistry on display), Ronaldo manages to twist his body around the other player’s leg, avoiding contact and avoiding injury while hurdling his body forward to create the illusion of being tripped. This is like The Pedersen only Ronaldo is close enough to his opponent to make the foul look real. And he regularly finishes with the rolling around and the getting on with it that makes The Drogba so successful. This is why Ronaldo is the consummate diver. He’s got everything: the skill, the finesse, the acting. He even manages real tears on a regular basis. And don’t forget his personal touch: Ronaldo has also been known to applaud the referee after the booking and kick have been awarded – the same way a striker might clap or give a thumbs up after a great pass or cross. Always remember to show appreciation for an assist. The lesson: diving is a complex art, study and master all its facets.
The Henry – I won’t spend to much time on this one since it’s been well covered on EPL Talk, but M. Henry has recently reminded us as he scored against Ireland for France yesterday, diving isn’t the only way to cheat. We must recognize the value of a good unacknowledged handball. Diego Maradona first popularized this method with the famous “Hand of God” goal in 1986. But where Maradona used his hand to score the goal directly, Henry took care to slap it to his own knee before knocking it to his teammate to score. So a hand, a knee and a head were all involved in the goal. The lesson: the two legal body parts obscure the use of the illegal one. That’s simple math, kids. Video (like you haven’t seen it 8,000 times today).
The Letterman – Okay, so this one isn’t part of the same sport, but it is a kind of cheating that requires balls. And I’m not talking pure physiology. This year, famed American talk show host David Letterman was threatened with blackmail over past sexual affairs with various members of his staff. Letterman’s response was to come forth and expose the blackmail even though it also meant exposing his infidelity (lots of exposing all around). He addressed the matter with the authorities and with the public including discussing it on his show. And while we don’t know just what it has done to his home life, his career seems to remain intact. And now, less-funny American talk-show host Jay Leno is considering sleeping with some of his staff to see if he can boost his own ratings in his new time slot. The lesson: Honesty is the best policy. (Note: This might only be the best policy when you are rich, successful and hilarious. Of course you will already need to be all of these things if you look like David Letterman and expect anybody to sleep with you.) Video.
There you have it. Lessons from the best. Now get out there and start putting all this to good use. And if you think of any great teachers I’ve forgotten, let me know in the comment section. Perhaps they’ll make it into my next lesson plan.