Diving should be FA's top agenda

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The last seven days has produced some shameful words in the world of football. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal supporters' chants during Sunday's north London derby ruined a match between two sides vying for local pride.

Instead of discussing Kyle Walker brilliant winner, the aftermath surrounds those who have disgraced themselves in the stands.

Next we had Kia Joorabchian, who attempted to defend and explain the alleged actions of Carlos Tevez during Manchester City's Champions League tie with Bayern Munich at Wednesday's Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge.

Granted, the evidence against Tevez is pretty damning, especially given the pain etched on Roberto Mancini's face following defeat in Munich, but the football world were ready to hear Joorabchian out. What we got was a speech which appeared to target the ignorant among us, rather than to inform us of new goings on.

The third shameful incident came following Macclesfield Town's defeat of Swindon Town in Npower League Two.

The charming but occasionally volatile Paulo Di Canio was left fuming after his side weren't awarded when Matt Ritchie was tripped by Jose Veiga with the Silkman 1-0 up.

Ritchie's refusal to go down under the challenge meant referee Steve Rishton had little option but to not award a spot kick, with the former Portsmouth winger still in possession of the ball, albeit unbalanced.

Di Canio was furious at the final whistle.

"From now on I will tell my players to dive," he said.

"From now on I will bring in a different culture because this was a red card and penalty."

"I'd prefer that they risk getting a yellow card for simulation. My team are the only ones who do not dive somewhere around the field."

We can all appreciate Di Canio's frustration. His player, attempting to be totally honest, neglected to go down under the smallest of touches during a moment in the game where a dominant Swindon were looking for a foothold.

However, the fact the Italian is lamenting Ritchie's honesty and claiming that his players should dive for penalties is a different matter, an altogether more serious one.

You could debate over what football's biggest crime is for hours on end, but for those who believe that diving, an intricacy of the game that is being passed down to the lower reaches, is the sport's biggest problem then you must take issue with Di Canio's comments.

Many, including England captain John Terry, have blamed the influence of foreign players in the Barclays Premier League for the increase of diving in the game, but the act has become contagious, to the extent that players from England are now caught up in the storm.

Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole have all been guilty in the past of falling to ground untouched, and when youngsters learning their trade see their heroes winning matches by committing such an atrocity, it's not just their haircut they try to recreate.

I realise I'm going over old ground somewhat, but Di Canio's comments have brought a new perspective on the issue; now managers want players to dive.

Previously, managers have been quick to condemn those who dive to win free-kicks or penalties, or who feign injury to gain an advantage.

In April, Stoke City boss Tony Pulis said: "It is something that has crept into our game and has become accepted because certain people at the top end of our game almost cover themselves from incidents that occur when challenges take place.


"I do think it is almost a disease that has gripped English football and I don't like it.

"I think when players roll around and try to get people booked or sent off, that doesn't help at all.

"You see people feigning injury and diving, and in my opinion it is cheating and I think those players should be reprimanded.

"We talk about bad challenges and certain other incidents in a game and we really go over the top with them. That is the worst type for me, because it is cheating."

Di Canio's comments emerged straight after the game with Macclesfield, however, nearly a week later, the Football Association have refused to deal with his words with any deal of seriousness, which frankly, is ludicrous.

We've seen particularly in athletics, how coaches have been reprimanded for handing drugs to their athletes, like in the case of Jamaican athletics coach Trevor Graham.

I accept that the case of Graham, in passing drugs on to his competitors, is a world away from Di Canio asking his players to cheat by diving, but he's still provoking the act of cheating is all the same.

The Football Association are lighting quick to protect there own referees when managers speak out after games, and that's all well and good, but when it comes to issues that really affect the game and how it's played, they appear to have turned a blind eye.

Are they taking his comments as throwaway remarks after a heated game? If so then they are no different to any other post match interview for which they have ruthlessly fined and banned managers for speaking out of line.

If the FA have any ambitions of irradiating diving from our game, with video evidence seemingly destined to tackle just goal-line incidents, the governing body have to tackle the issue from a retrospective point of view.

Before the 2007 FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United, the first to be played at the new Wembley, referee Steve Bennett admitted he'd find it tough picking players who dive.

"There are some very clever players who instigate contact and make it difficult for the referee," he said.

"Sometimes there's contact but an exaggerated reaction to try to deceive the referee. It's nigh-on impossible to be sure. I hope we keep on top of it."

In 2006, FIFA rejected the FA's suggestion of using technology to track diving, claiming that a referee shouldn't be overruled.

But if just a year later, an official is stating he wouldn't be able to tell if a player was diving or not, aren't FIFA just skirting over the problem? It hardly strikes me that Sepp Blatter is overly concerned in his ivory tower.

FIFA bottled banning former Arsenal striker Eduardo when he was caught simulating during a Champions League qualifier against Celtic, and could have set a precedent for the remainder of the football world, but they let the Croatian off scot free.

The FA's policies against the lambasting of refereeing and racism have been strong, if not always successful, but when it comes to diving they're doing very little.

They need to be stronger with FIFA to convince them that the self policing of diving in this country is not working, and furthermore be ruthless when individuals like Di Canio begin to encourage it. The FA may be transfixed by the National Football Centre in Burton finally being finished, but if they don't tackle this problem correctly the future of the game could be jeopardy.

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