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Going Down Easy is a Skill


Diving is a skill like any other in football and should be embraced as such.

This might be heresy to some. Certain fans unappreciative of the skill think play-actors are ruining the game with their histrionics. Well, the simple truth is that they are wrong and need to wake up to the fact that diving has always been, has always worked and as such should be viewed as the important, valuable and integral part of the beautiful game.

The art of the dive has been part of the game for as long as I can remember — and I am not that old, but I do remember when Scottish teams were a force in the “European Cup.”

Non-believers say it is a modern thing, part of the modern game, a creation of the Premier League, Sky Sports pizzaz and “foreigners” rather than the hard, honest, stalwart men of the 50s, 60s and 70s. But that is a lie!

England and Geoff Hurst did it when they won the World Cup with a goal that never crossed the line in 1966.

George Best did almost as much diving as he did cocaine and Miss World contestants in the 1970s.

Diving is a traditional part of the game and should be treated as a skill, learned like any other. Just like curling the ball or tackling — diving and all manner of gamesmanship should be a tool in the drawer of every player.

If you split a player’s skills into a spreadsheet — think Football Manager — with speed, skill, agility, work rate and all other characteristics, having a high value for diving or histrionics make a player more valuable.

The ability to win penalties, just like the ability to win headers or 50/50 tackles, is an important part of any players game — especially a finesse forwards.

Thierry Henry, for example, gets himself into the area at pace, with power. He gets into a position to be awarded a penalty, legitimate or earned, not because he is a great actor but because he is a great footballer. You can’t just show up one day, fall over and get yourself in the front line of a top flight team.

When Ronaldo hits the deck 17 1/2 yards out he has not magically appeared there. He is in that position because he is faster and more skillful than any defender he may meet there. As a result, referees knows he may get hit and so watch for it. His constant pressuring of the goal means he has earned favorable decisions.

Playacting is not something that should be stubbed-out like cigar (in an ashtray Mr. Barton) but something that should be appreciated.

In American baseball the curveball was once though dishonest because it attempts to fool the batter. This was a short-sighted view of a skill now widely accepted. Fooling a referee inside and around the 18 yard box is no different.

But on top of the fact that diving and play-acting adds to the game, why would you want to kill something this much fun. Who doesn’t love bitching about Ronaldo flops, Rooney falls and refereeing ridiculousness.

Playacting is not simply domain of prissy little strikers, it is done by every player on the field and more-so by those who manage them.

Defenders are now screaming at refs every time a forwards falls to the ground, whether they have just knee-capped them or not. Anytime a 6’4″ 220 lbs goalkeeper is brushed by the end of an untucked shirt they are face down faster than girls who “date” trios of former Sunderland players.

And lets not forget the men in the suits. What better entertainment has ever come from the Chel-ski era than The Special One’s verbal exchanges with Man United’s Christmas sleigh-leading General. Sir Alex and Jose’s spats were more entertaining than almost anything the former Porto man has ever put on the field. Add to this comical rants by Rafa and almost everything that comes out of the mouth of Hull’s Phil “I-Dress-Like-a-Gangster-working-in-a-Call-Center” Brown.

Jokes aside, the exploding-Hindenburg style reaction to the first diving claims of the season have come and gone. As every year, millions of column inches are wasted on each non-event that happens to big-four clubs. Playacting is a big part of football, it always has been that needs to be accepted. From the tribal nature of supporters, to the expressive gesticulations of flamboyant referees, this is a game of beautiful play and a whole lot of acting.

From schoolyards to the palatial grounds of Champions League teams, kids are upending themselves, untouched every day.

Like it, love it or hate it this is part of this game, so can we please just accept it and move on! And, if you can’t accept it, can you please keep your indignation to yourself!

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  1. andrew

    September 22, 2009 at 2:53 am

    as much as this makes sense, people dive way more now than ever before.

    And it is the refs fault. Just have someone review all of these plays. three match ban.
    That is it.

    Refs need to give penalties for people being impeded upon who stay standing up, but wabble around.

    We are at the point where you expect your players to dive to win penalties and you are lying to yourself if you don’t think it is a tactical advantage with the way the the rules are now, but what manager is going to not take the advantage now.

  2. Fletch Spigner

    September 21, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Diving, just like the “professional foul,” is part of the game. It’s here. It’s always been here. It will always be here. Good players will always push the boundaries and bend the rules. Good post Mike!

  3. Gaz

    September 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    That’s what she said (the topic).

  4. John

    September 21, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Cheating is a certainly a “skill” that requires dedication and many years to master; moreover, it is very much a part of some sports. That doesn’t make it right or laudable.

  5. Mike Gellatly

    September 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Peter: You have missed the point. If my side went down 6-5 in the 98th minute I would be equally aggrieved whether through a finely craft move or through an “earned” penalty. There is no difference — except the massive number of column inches are printed about the non-issue of diving!

    • Peter

      September 22, 2009 at 6:04 am

      Mike, Just because something is a skill doesn’t make it right. Watching child pornography without the police knowing may be regarded as a skill, but it doesn’t make it right.

      • Mike Gellatly

        September 22, 2009 at 10:13 am

        specious reasoning on your part. I have never said it was right, I said it was part of the game, takes skill to pull off and the uproar surrounding it is far worse than the act itself.

        • Mike Gellatly

          September 22, 2009 at 10:16 am

          And also, histrionics and playacting are accepted in football, if it was not refs would be sending people off right and left and managers would constantly be banned.

          • Peter

            September 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm

            Fair point. I must admit that I misunderstood you. You quite clearly do not condon the act of diving but rather you accept it as a part of football, sorry to have troubled you.

  6. Tyson

    September 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    This is an interesting article but I think you mix up diving with “going down easy”.

    If a play is fouled if he goes down easy and gets more out of it then why is that a problem?

    The issue is a foul was commited and the punishment is completely subjective.

    End up on your ass and the referee is likely to be more favourable towards you so you are swaying the refs decision.

    Players have done this for generations though especially with goalkeepers. Rooney did this against Arsenal when he saw the goalie going for the ball and ran to it. He probably didn’t think he was going to score from that angle but he was certain if the keeper made any contact with him and contributed anything at all to him losing his balance it would be a penalty.

    Fact of the matter is most fouls are about as subjective as it gets and everybody tries to sway the refs decision in many ways.

    Managers having a word with the fourth official, players running upto the referee, somebody rolling around on the floor, people complaining to the referee about the foul.. it’s all designed to get a decision in your own favour and referees are humans their guess is generally about as good as yours or mine and they all feel pressure in front of millions of eyes.

    It’s football and whether its a decision for you or against you learning to live with it is something you have to do.

    On the other hand diving with NO CONTACT what so ever.. now thats something I have an issue with. If there is no contact at all.. none what so ever.. zilch.. well thats an issue and that player needs a lenghty ban.

    • hank

      September 21, 2009 at 2:57 pm

      I agree with the basic point. Though to highlight the subjective gray area between “going down easy” and “diving” – I thought that Rooney’s penalty against Arsenal crossed the line into a dive. He fell in anticipation of contact, rather than falling as a (exaggerated) response to a foul.

  7. Adebayor

    September 21, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    this might sound crazy but i agree with you

    • Adebayor

      September 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

      think about how many free kicks ronaldo got in that 07/08 season when he scored 40 something goals. now imagine how many time he dived to get those free kicks. now take away those free kicks when he dove, i bet u dont get 40 or more goals from him

  8. Peter

    September 21, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    “Can you please keep your indignation to yourself!”

    Why would youn write this on a blog and then exclude people from commenting against you, that seems to contradict the idea of the internet and of blogs and also of the freedom of speech act.

    • Mike Gellatly

      September 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      That phrase refers to pundits talking about the non-issue of diving, not my article — which merits much comment!

  9. hank

    September 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    There is a difference between “going down easily” and diving. The former is an attempt to call attention to a foul that has actually occurred, the latter is an attempt to simulate a foul that has not occurred. There is a lot of gray area between the two, but I think equating them confuses the discussion. “Going down easy” is cynical, but generally accepted, and diving is simply cheating and should be condemned.

    Also, as John points out, this article — as per some unwritten epltalk style guide 🙂 — pointlessly tries to wind people up (e.g., the last paragraph).

  10. Peter

    September 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Actually I meant Ian Brady, but yeah Ian Huntley was also a very nice man, no really he was.

  11. Peter

    September 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    John, well said, this is a pathetic attempt to appear “edgy”, i bet if your team were drawing 5-5 and in the 98th minute the other teame scored from the spot after a dive you wouldn’t stand and stay:
    “I don’t feel at all that bothered that are team just lost due to a dive and that we subsequently lost the league title as well because of that, because the player who dived deserves to be mentioned as the NEW MICHAELANGELO!”

    How about this one as well to get you going:
    “Myra Hindley was a very nice woman until she got lead astray by Ian Huntley” or how about “All those little kids she abused deserved it”

    Why don’t you learn to write decent articles you f**king muppet.

    There, that should be enough to get me kicked off.

  12. Mike Gellatly

    September 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm


    No attempt to be “wacky,” just an honest opinion. Way too much attention is given to divers. Just like the legalization of marijuana/ lower drinking age argument in the US. Allowing it takes away the cool so there is less abuse!

    But thanks for playing disapproving, but trying to be cool, jaded guy!

  13. Justin

    September 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Hmm, poor effort.

  14. John

    September 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    We get it, you’re the “Crazy blogger with an un-orthodox view” guy…Nice try at getting everyone riled up. We’ll see who takes the bait.

    How about this: “Hitler was mis-understood. Go.”

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