Diving debate rears ugly head again

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There is no insult more severe for a professional football player than to be accused by an opponent of deliberately cheating - an act considered to be morally reprehensible and completely contrary to the spirit of fair play.

However, 'gamesmanship' as it is so often called, is something so ingrained into the psyche of the modern player, that the majority will do almost anything possible to gain even the most miniscule of advantage.

Considered to be one of the most toxic acts of cheating is diving - deliberately falling to the ground in the hope of winning a free kick or penalty or, perhaps even worse, resulting in an opponent being sent from the field of play.

Diving has long been accused to be a disease of the game perpetuated only by players from overseas, rather than the hardened and disciplined pros of the British isles.

However, one of the players under increasing scrutiny for performing such acts is Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, who has been accused of attempts to con match officials into awarding penalties.

The latest incident refers to Wednesday night's FA Cup victory over Stevenage at White Hart Lane, in which Spurs were awarded a spot-kick after Bale went down under a challenge from Mark Roberts.

And, although he stopped short of branding Bale a cheat, the Stevenage defender does not believe his tackle on the Wales international was a foul.

"I've tried to block the cross and I thought he went down very easily," he told BBC Three Counties Radio.

"That's football at the very highest level, they look for those things."

He added: "In my mind it's not a penalty. I'm coming from a defender's point of view.

"He'll argue that I caught him. I'd have to see it again. I was a bit disappointed."

This is not the first time that Bale has had to contest such allegations, after there was the suggestion that the 22-year-old deceitfully won his side a penalty in the north London derby against Arsenal.

The following weekend, Arsenal were on the receiving end of another debatable decision following a tackle by Wojciech Szczesny on Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, which brought the diving debate into sharp focus once again.

There is no clear suggestion that either Bale or Suarez did dive against the Gunners, and the former refutes any such claims that he would ever indulge in the act.

"If people want to say I'm diving then they can, but I'm trying to get out of the way and save myself, save my career if you like," Bale said, according to

"It's a bit annoying (when people say I dive) but you've got people flying in at you, you're trying to get out of the way of the challenge. If you stand there, you're going to get a whack.

"You can see why people say you're diving but I'd rather get out of the way than get hurt, that's what it is. It's football, a contact sport, things do happen and you've got to try to be clever with it.

"I'm more likely to try to get out of the way and not get hurt, rather than get hurt. I tend not to dive."

Bale, however, remains the only player in the Premier League to have been booked twice for diving this season, having been adjudged to have done so against both Liverpool and Swansea.

Is Bale a diver? Perhaps introducing more severe punishment for players caught doing so would allow the Welsh wizard to prove just how 'sporting' he is.

This is far from a witch hunt or a deliberate slight on Bale's character, but the debate surrounding his integrity is one which will not appear to cease.

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