To simulate or not to simulate, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to stay on one’s feet or hit the ground and try to gain an advantage (sorry, Billy).
Yesterday’s incident with Fernando Torres once again throws one of soccer’s worst aspects up for inspection. Diving/simulation, call it what you will, is ruining our sport. Each flop, each hand to the face in agony, is an indictment. As a former coach and ref, as well as a fan, I am appalled at what I see happening. We are allowing this practice to continue to thrive and hold our game up to ridicule. Witness last year’s ESPN Sports Center promo.
It isn’t going to go away until the refs or the FA stand up and say, “Enough!” Of course, therein lays the rub. Exactly what do we do about it? How can we, if not eradicate simulation, at least deter it to the point where it no longer seems to be the poster child for the game?
The NBA, where flopping has become its own little epidemic, will implement a warning/fining/suspension policy this year using post-match video (pending a grievance filed by the players’ association). Both the A-League and MLS have policies in place that look to deter simulation through post-match review. One can debate the effectiveness of these policies, but at least they are in place and the leagues are attempting to do something about the problem.
On the other hand, the Premier League has nothing. They seem paralyzed by their stance that the refs can not be “weakened” by the use of post-match video review. If, the ref says he saw it, but felt there was nothing worthy of a card, then that’s the end of it no matter what the offense might have been. The refs themselves seem to be in a no win situation when it comes to enforcement of the law. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t….so most don’t and the problem gets worse.
So where do we go from here? Do we just wring our hands and say nothing can be done? Would post-match review help in the long run, even if it can not correct the infraction/advantage at the time? Should the FA direct the refs to start pulling more yellows like Mark Clattenburg? Or do we simply embrace simulation as part of the game and start scoring dives?