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.