The Art Of The Flop: Diving In Soccer

There are several ways to excel as a professional soccer player. Extraordinary speed, an infallible touch and impeccable field vision are among the most desirable qualities. But if all else fails, one can always rely on the tactic which has been growing in popularity and frequency year after year: The Flop.

All that’s required to master this technique is a cheapness to your character that will allow your mind the flexibility to flaunt the very spirit of soccer itself. Flopping, diving, exaggerating and embellishment are techniques employed by inferior players to artificially level the playing field. Whether the player is always inferior is beside the point because at the moment he decides to embellish contact he admits defeat, even if the call goes his way. Unfortunately there are enough players out there without the scruples to care, evidently believing that the end justifies the means.

However, that is not to imply that anyone out there can be skilled even at flopping. There is definitely a sinister art to it; one that ironically could be used effectively and properly during the game but which is abused when used to steal a call by flopping. This critical and oft misused soccer skill is timing. One can time a pass or a run, well timed touches will juke an opponent right out of his jock strap and of course a well timed flop with an appropriate quantity of acrobatic and dramatic flair can, and quite often does, juke a referee right out of his senses. When an attempt fails it is unlikely for there to be a call to discourage future flagrant thespian appeals, but when a call does go against the flopper…there’s no greater feeling of justice served in the sports world.

Typically, good timing requires the awareness to be on the same page as your co-conspirators

…unless your opponent truly is a ninja

Of course, nothing is ever simply straight forward. For when, in that rare instance, a call goes against a player for flopping when it is obvious to all but the referee that the player was not trying to draw a foul, the injustice almost negates the justice gained when a true actor is busted.

Some of you may argue that playing to the referee is part of the game and it’s a skill that should be nurtured. I take this as proof that ignorance is, in fact, not always bliss. For in this particular instance, true bliss is a deep understanding and appreciation for the beautiful game as it was designed to be played and the recognition of what it could be like if it were actually played that way. I feel sad for those of you who feel like diving, and “professional” fouls for that matter, are part of the game and should be considered in the tactics of offense and defense because you will never know the game as well as it deserves.

Ultimately it is all up to the referee, who has a lot on his plate to begin with, to determine within a split second whether or not the player in question is being misleading, honest or simply needs time to pick himself up before getting back into the fray. Post game analysis and fines or suspensions may deter some from continuing this burgeoning tradition but by that point the damage has been done and the course of the game changed. I will never champion for intrusive interruptions to soccer’s pace and flow to solve even a problem as damaging as flopping – doing so would only serve to further destroy the game by sacrificing its greatest aspects. In my ideal world the attitudes of the players today can change such that becoming a known diver would effectively disown a player from the team atmosphere until his approach to the game adjusted appropriately. Change must come in the form of peer pressure; so often resulting in the decline of character, here we have the opportunity to reverse that dynamic.

10 thoughts on “The Art Of The Flop: Diving In Soccer”

  1. Another article about diving….and still no consideration of the fact that there is a crucial difference between diving when no contact is made (which is absolute cheating), and simply “embellishing contact”, which in my mind is not cheating at all.

    In a game, there are often times when you get a small nudge, kick, or pull that is enough to slow you down/knock you off the ball, but is barely observable to the ref. Like it or not, refs rarely give a call unless someone falls down. Until this is changed, players will quite right continue to “embellish contact” so as to draw the ref’s attention to a genuine foul.

    1. In my post I do mention embellishment in the list of wrongs I’m talking about. Embellishment is a fine, fine line though because most nudges at least are completely legal, if still annoying, while a late but not very strong tackle or a tug on the shirt is definitely a foul and may interfere with the player’s control, it is that player’s duty to do his best to play through those fouls and trust that the ref will eventually make the call. In all likelihood the call won’t be made but the integrity of the game has been maintained AND, more often than not, if the player sticks with the play instead of flopping around like a fish out of water on the ground, there will be some advantage to be gained by playing through it.

  2. False.

    Flopping is not a way to “excel as a professional soccer player.” It’s either a way for already excellent players to pad their stats or a way for aspiring players never to become excellent.

    There is not a single player who is considered excellent because of his or her ability to simulate. In fact, that’s the single best reason flopping is so abhorrent.

  3. I have no problem with “embellishing contact”. As I believe Diego Serna once said “My job is to make sure the referee sees the foul”.

    When it’s a true, clear flop, it’s shameful. However if you do get bumped off the ball or nudged or catch a boot to the calf, if you play it up a bit to draw the attention of the official I have no issue with it.

    1. True, my point exactly! If you say it is the player’s responsibility to “play through the foul and hope the ref makes the right call”, then you have to accept that a huge number of real fouls will never be called. That would put the advantage with the foulers, since they know they can get away with subtle fouling. And, to me, that “hurts the integrity of the game” more than people embellishing subtle fouls.

      1. I think that I’m agreeing with you but having a slightly different, more restricted definition of “embellishment”. Embellishing to me indicates that one makes the foul look worse than it actually was, which I don’t think has any place in the game. I’m trying to find the right word in my mind for what I am talking about and I’m not sure it exists, as I said above it’s a fine line. There is definitely a distinction between the embellishment I’m talking about and what you’re talking about, though, and I guess the important factor may be the drama that I mentioned in my post. If a player gets kicked subtly and tripped up, I wouldn’t fault him for falling even if he could potentially keep his feet, but I would fault him for laying on the ground grabbing his ankle and screaming like it’s broken to try to sway the ref’s judgement. In my opinion the player should fall (which I suppose may be a very small embellishment), get back up and play the whistle.

        1. Yeah I think we’re on the same page, and I’d like to make that same distinction too – there is a big difference between embellishing a subtle foul by falling down when you could have stayed up, and embellishing it by rolling around on the floor like you’ve broken your leg.

  4. When you attempt a terrible slide tackle from that angle in the box, you are just asking for it. Why not just stand him up? he’s not even in a dangerous position.

    This instance falls solely on the defender. Dive or not, you cannot put yourself in such a situation. In real time I would have called it a penalty too.

    1. Yeah, I’ll agree that it was a stupid tackle but it was also egregious embellishment of virtually non-existent contact which I have to hold against the diver in the end.

      Also, I should note that the video was added by MLS Talk after they decided, rightly due to copyright issues, to remove some images I had inserted as examples/comic relief so better examples surely do exist out there. However this one illustrates the issue well and is very recent so it was a great choice in my opinion, even considering Matt’s good point that it was a poor defending choice that led to the opportunity for a convincing dive.

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