Diving; from its Klinsmann roots in Italia 90, to its somewhat excessive use in the modern game, it has always been considered as a dirty and disgusting tactic for players to use, but it still happens every week, and even on the grandest stages in the football.
Diving could send football’s reputation down the drain, but can it be stopped, or are players being brought up in a world where diving is almost the accepted thing to do?
When considering the future of diving in football, you have to consider the past. Arguably its roots are in the aforementioned Jürgen Klinsmann in the Italia 90’ final.
His somewhat ‘acrobatic’ dive made sure he was remembered by everyone; for all the wrong reasons. He continued his diving tradition in his stint at Tottenham, which is one of the things he is widely remembered for – the dive has even been turned into a goal celebration.
Diving, simply, is cheating. The whole point of a dive is to push the game in your favour, by faking or over exaggerating a tackle to win your team a foul, a penalty, and even sometimes an undeserved red card – known too well by Brazil and Italy internationals Kaka and Gianfranco Zola, who both got sent off for challenges in World Cups because of a dive.
In later years after Klinsmann’s dive, other famous World Cup dives are remembered, such as Rivaldo’s ‘Face Clench’ and Diego Simeone’s ‘Kick Out’. The World Cup has had a number of famous and frankly ridiculous dives, but it is almost expected because it is the biggest stage in football, and players will do almost anything to get a win for their country, but still diving is not acceptable, especially not on the biggest stage in football.
If diving continues in World Cups in the future, one has to question its reputation if teams are winning it through cheating.
The Premier League, arguably the biggest league known for simulation, is rife with divers. Names like Ashley Young, Gareth Bale, and even Cristiano Ronaldo spring to mind when thinking about the famous divers in recent Premier League history.
Since 2008, Gareth Bale has picked up the most yellow cards for simulation (7), four ahead of joint second Adnan Januzaj and Ashley Young. All three players are young, promising players and diving and a reputation for diving could overshadow their actual ability.
The idea of a ‘reputation for diving’ plays into the referee’s mind every time a player gets fouled or tackled, for example, the previously mentioned Januzaj has gained his three yellow cards in his debut season, and because they have come in quick succession he has gained a reputation for diving, something that might cause him to gain bookings where they are not deserved.
Former Spurs star Gareth Bale gained enough yellow cards from diving (5) to earn him a one match ban, not only affecting himself, but his team as well.
On the other side of the coin, there are players who are famous for not diving, especially in certain situations. One of the most famous and influential goals in Premier League history is Sergio Agüero’s late title winner against Queen’s Park Rangers, and it was the result of him not diving in the box, which probably would have resulted in a penalty – an almost certain goal, but he chose to carry on and score what was not only a great goal in terms of technical ability, but also team meaning.
One of the most important points in this situation is the argument that even if he had have gone down, it was actually a foul, not a dive, which makes what he did even more impressive.
One of the most famous players out of context for not diving is four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Countless times in matches has Messi been challenged with an outstretched leg, and has either avoided it, or got straight back up from the fall to continue running, and sometimes even go on to score a goal.
What Messi proves is that diving can sometimes be an obstruction to further opportunities in matches, and it is definitely not needed for your team to win.
Finally, one must look towards the referees, the FA, and FIFA to sort out diving. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini says divers thrive because “football is cheating” and he encourages referees to call out players on accounts of simulation.
On the other side of Manchester, United manager David Moyes has a strong opinion against diving, where on numerous occasions has called out players (even his own) in post-match interviews, questioning the need to dive.
President of UEFA Michel Platini and FIFA President candidate Jerome Champagne both believe the future of football lies in an ‘orange card’ or a sin bin. Whether it should be applied for other fouls is another question, but its affect to diving and simulation in football would be huge, as the team would be actually impacted for 5-10 minutes of a game because a player has dived, leading players to dive less because of the greater risk.
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