Despite the clamour to hang, draw and quarter those players who like to take a tumble at the slightest touch, you must have a certain degree of, well, maybe not sympathy, but understanding as to why they fall to the ground after a tackle.
Earlier in the season in a game poised at 0-0 against Tottenham, Everton’s Seamus Coleman was clipped in the box. He stumbled, fell to his knees, immediately jumped up and skewed a shot wide. It was a foul, and a penalty should have been awarded by the referee. It surely would have been if the Irishman had stayed down.
A couple of months later on New Year’s Day, when the Toffees were away at Stoke City, Leon Osman had his legs swiped in the box. The England man stuttered, but stayed on his feet. Again, if he’d gone down and stayed down a penalty would have been given. Nothing was awarded initially, but luckily for Everton, Jermaine Pennant hacked him down about three seconds later and a penalty was then awarded.
It seems referees are only looking to give these big decisions if the recipient of the tackle is felled quite literally to the ground. The two aforementioned players are honest professionals, but it has been to their detriment in these instances. If you were their manager, what would you be telling them to do next time they feel contact in the box? As a supporter, I’d certainly want them to go down and earn the points for the team.
And herein lies the crux of this whole diving issue. Would that then constitute diving? In the eyes of some, perhaps. The hindered player would be much more likely to get a penalty if he accentuated the contact and this only further clouds the boundaries that distinguish ‘winning’ a penalty and an outright dive. Boundaries that are already pretty blurred as it is.
With that in mind, maybe simulation is a part of the game that we just have to accept? Feigning injury is obviously something that needs to be eradicated and another matter entirely. But realistically, are we going to ever abolish simulation?
Even though there has been outcry from various corners of the media, some supporters are starting to develop a laissez-faire attitude to simulation. If their team gets a penalty with one of their players taking a tumble, do you think they’ll be bemoaning their player’s dishonesty and conning of the officials? Not a chance. Especially when other players are likely to do exactly the same against them given the chance.
Some have called for harsher punishments and a retrospective panel to potentially discourage players from indulging in it. But to label someone essentially as a cheat is a big, bold move to take and going down that road would give rise to a host of issues. Ones you imagine FIFA, the FA and any other governing body are pretty keen to avoid.
Remember in 2009 when UEFA tried to ban Eduardo for diving against Celtic? UEFA quickly recoiled into their shell and rescinded it under massive protestations from Arsenal.