Diving In Football (Soccer)- Get Over It!!!

Diving is cheating.

Yes it is.  No one, even the divers themselves can pretend otherwise.  Oh sure they can say they jumped out of the way in order to avoid a tackle because if they did not they might get hurt.  And they probably might have a point, if they did in fact lost balance.  Half the time they do not.  They are “helping” the referee see that there was indeed intent and a foul, or an attempt at a foul.  So lets not kid ourselves here.  Divers are cheats.  There is nothing really honourable about falling down when one was not touched.  My intention here is not to defend the act, in some cases, art, of diving on a football pitch.  It is cheating.  It is that simple.

However, it is not the worst thing that happened to football.  Nor is it a new phenomenon.  And it is not only perpetrated by those dishonest southern foreigners as the English love to claim.  Diving is as old as fouling.  Everyone does it.  And again, is is not a crime against humanity or sport.  Yet, many act like it is.  Every time someone gets caught in a blatant dive there is a big controversy about it, there are calls for video reviews and suspensions.  Hell, some countries have that system in place and use it to retroactively punish the divers, sometimes, if blatant enough, with a multiple game suspension.  My problem is that all this controversy and faux outrage is bullshit and as dishonest as diving itself.  Actually more so.

Lets look at diving itself.  Now its been happening for decades, no matter how people even older than I am try to claim otherwise through selective memory.  So all this outrage is false and dishonest.  Especially when its directed at foreign players (I am talking about England mostly, being fan of English football).  There is this myth that for the most part English players don’t dive.  Its bullshit of course as there are as many English players diving as there are foreigners.  But English fans want to believe that their countrymen are better and more honest.  The English emphasize honesty and hard work, so of course none of their heroes would dive.  If they do then its a one off of course.  That is another myth.  English players are as good at diving as the rest of the world is.

The Honest English Footballer

If a foreigner dove to win a penalty in a Champions League Final then the English press would talk about if for years.  Yet when an English player did it, he was a hero for starting a great comeback.  But hypocrisy aside lets look at what the big deal about diving is.  As I keep saying its cheating.  In several cases its even trying to get a player booked, and possibly sent off, to gain an unfair advantage.  However, many times there was a real attempt to foul and only the dive avoided contact.  So in many cases it really is what the cheaters claim, trying to protect oneself from possible injury.  Diving is simulation.  Simulation is bad.  But falling down is actually better than real simulation, like when after a tackle, a player pretends to be injured.  And wastes everyone’s time!!!  30 seconds later we see him back on the pitch running at full speed fully recovered from his career ending injury.  Its pathetic.  That I hate more than the actually falling over.

And when we get all hot and bothered about diving we don’t mind other forms of cheating.  Yet another hypocrisy from football fans.  No one ever complains about two players from opposing teams raising their hands for a corner/goal kick, when they both know who touched the ball last.  That is also deceiving the referee.  OK, a player might not be booked as a consequence, but one of them is cheating.  Every corner kick or a throw in has a “controversy.”  Players actually argue over these decisions trying to influence the officials and the decision does have consequences, no matter how much we pretend that it does not.  Players simulate, cheat, when they claim innocence after fouling someone.  Players actually ask for other players to be booked.  That last one is against the rules, and should be punished by a yellow card, yet the referees, being cowards, do not caution players for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Yet most of the above mentioned offenses rarely cause controversy or even registers on the fans’ radar.  Its the divers who are ruining the game.  Diving is punishable by a yellow card.  But most football fans, and pundits, actually want divers sent off, or retroactively suspended for a game or more.  That would put diving alongside violent conduct, like leg breaking tackles.  And why?  Because its not manly.  Yes, divers are pussies who refuse to stay on their feet, and possibly, in some cases, get their legs broken, and we want to punish them like we do players who sometimes intentionally injure their fellow professionals.  Its not manly.

That is the only explanation.  Its not because its dishonest.  We tolerate all kind of dishonesty from players, even dirty tackling.  Its not that its unprofessional, several times per game many players waste time deliberately, they berate referees, they simulate injury, they claim innocence.  We tolerate unprofessional behaviour that slows down the game and we don’t mind when our players have a go at the ref.  That is fine.  As long as a players does not fall down, we pretty much will tolerate anything.

Then we come to the refs and diving itself.  Was there really intent?  Well it all depends if its my player or the opposition player.  If its my player, then he fell down avoiding a dirty tackle and simply lost balance.  If its a player on the opposing team he fell down because he is a pussy and a cheat who tried to gain an unfair advantage and deceive the referee.  There are not many clear cut incidents when we can all agree about a dive.  Yet many people want video review and suspensions of players accused of diving.  The reviewers must assume intent, otherwise it was not a dive.  And of the several of the most notorious cases debated over years, about half were clear cut.  So the system would be based on assumptions, and possibly reputations.  What about minimal contact?  Possibly not enough to make someone fall down if that someone really tried to stay in their feet.  Is that diving?  Was it not a foul in the first case?  And if there was contact, then it was a foul, no matter how minimal the contact was, sometimes it does not take much to make someone running at full speed fall over.  In that case it was not a dive.  Yet we still moan about it and call it a dive.

And here is where the refs come in.  Over the years I watched Ronaldo (Cristiano, not the fat one) dive many a time.  However, most times he was properly fouled, or simple lost balance avoiding a foul.  And as the years went by the refs became more and more reluctant to call a foul when they saw Ronaldo on the ground.  And they never called a foul, even when he was indeed fouled, unless he did in fact fall.  A player does not have to fall down in order to be fouled.  But the referees are very reluctant to use their whistle if a players stays on his feet.  So players go down easily.  And the refs call even less fouls because they see players fall down after what they view as minimal contact.  And in circles we go.  Its the chicken or the egg argument.  Do players fall over easily because the referees refuse to blow the whistle unless they do go down, or do refs not whistle for fouls because they think players dive.

The referees are a big problem in this.  They refuse to take charge and do their jobs.  Just as they refuse to call fouls in the penalty box.  Or book players for waving an imaginary card, or book players early in the game.  Or book players for blatantly fouling players who have reputations of diving.  They refuse to make decisions and apply the laws of the game consistently.  The idiots on television do not help, they talk about common sense, about trying to keep 11 players on the pitch, about intent, as if that mattered.  If the referees explained that they will not tolerate holding in the penalty box players would stop, they certainly would stop if a couple of penalties were called.  But then the refs would be slated by the same idiots on television for influencing the game or trying to be in the limelight.  As if applying the laws of the game was trying to influence it.  Its idiotic.

The referees are human of course and will make mistakes.  And there should be a system in place for the refs to explain their decisions and for overturning their mistakes.  But we do not have that in football.  A referee can not talk to the media, even if all the fans want an explanation.  A yellow card can not be rescinded, unless it was mistaken identity.  And the refs are cowards.  They will shy away from a decision.  Many a time we see a player fall down in a penalty box, and the offending player claim innocence while the player who fell down calls for a foul.  The ref only smiles and waves for the player to get up and runs away.  That is bullshit.  If both players are claiming something different, one of two things happened.  A foul and a penalty should be called with a possible caution for the offender, or the diver should be cautioned for diving.  Yet half the time nothing happens.  And half the time the ref did not do his job.

And when this happens more and more do we really wonder why players do fall down?  If you are almost never going to get a foul called when you try to stay on your feet, why would you?  If you were getting hacked throughout the whole match why would you not try to avoid it and fall down in any case to make sure the offender got punished?  Because its unsportsmanlike and not manly?  Well fuck that.  What is so sportsmanlike and manly about deliberately hacking down a fellow professional just because you could not get the ball off him?  That is cheating.  As bad, worse in my opinion, as  diving itself.

And it comes down to this.  We tolerate certain forms of cheating but scream bloody hell about others.  Diving is cheating and when a ref sees it he should punish a player with a yellow card.  And if anyone wants video reviews, then the same should happen.  A retroactive yellow card.  Just because the ref did not see the dive during the game it should not mean that the player should be punished extra for it.  We do not punish violent incidents that the refs miss that way.  The offenders get the standard punishment.  Not double or triple the suspension.  That would not make any sense.  Everyone needs to come down about diving and use common sense.  Its just another, among many, form of cheating that players do during the game.  Why do we make one thing special and ignore another.  Football has many problems, diving should not be on top of the list of things that are wrong with football.  So yes, do get over it.

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 7:00 am  Comments (3)  
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World Cup Final Set, Holland meets Spain- South Africa 2010

So the improbable dream is over for both Uruguay and Germany.  Both missing important players, and both go out.  To be honest neither of the semis were great matches.  Not even very good really.  Holland were weary, Uruguay worked hard.  Spain, again, underwhelming, Germany too defensive.

So we will have a new nation win the WC to join the past 7 winners.  For the first time also a European nation will win the WC outside their continent.  History is being made in South Africa.  FIFA got at least half of their dream match up.  Spain will play, though FIFA would have loved to see them play against Brazil.  Spain again got big breaks in refereeing decisions.  Certain yellow card fouls not punished, offsides called or not called, depending who needed them.

Spain were better than Germany, and looking objectively, they deserved it.  But this is not the team that won the European Championship just 2 years ago.  They have most of the same players.  But their play and tactics have been very poor by their standard.  Holland too has changed.  No more happy attacking total football.  Instead we get total tactics.  A composed, careful team.  No silliness on and off the pitch like in the years past.

It should be a fairly even match.  Though for Spain to win they will certainly need to play much better than they did in this WC.  They got the results but have failed to impress.  A lot of their wins were good luck, good bounces and great finishing by Villa.  Of course many people will say that the mark of a great team is winning without playing great.  But really now.  There comes a time when you need to play because the luck will run out.

Holland have also not been on top of their form.  But, like Spain, keep winning.  Will that be enough?  Certainly van Bommel and de Jong will have to do great work to protect the not so great back four and a fairly poor keeper.  They have enough attacking prowess to go after Spain and hurt them.  Kuyt should stay on the left to cover Ramos.  And Robben can take the poor Capdevilla apart.  Sneijder can be dominant over Busquets and Alonso.  Villa has the edge over the poor van Persie.

There should be no questions about the Dutch line up.  The back five if healthy should be as usual.  Stekelenberg, van der Viel, Heitinga, Mathijssen, Gio.  The two CMs, de Jong and van Bommel.  Sneijder in front of them with Robben and Kuyt on the flanks.  van Persie up top in a classic 4-2-3-1.

Spain a more of a question mark.  Does del Bosque go with the team that won the semi or does he go back to the poor Torres.  The only questions really.  Cassilas in goal, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevilla in defence.  Busquets, Alonso, Xavi as the middle 3.  They are certain.  As are Iniestsa wide and Villa, either up top on his own or on the left with Torres.  Pedro did ok today, but he had that stupid, shocking, and selfish 2 on 1 which could have cost Spain.  However I am thinking that Pedro might start.  Just.  del Bosque has been stubborn and gave the shockingly poor Torres chance after chance.  Torres will likely come on as a sub.

So it will play out more or less like this.  Spain will keep the ball from the start.  They will, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass.  They will create chances.  Holland will defend and try to hit them on the counter.  Spain are a great team off the ball.  They defend high, have great movement defensively and put a lot of pressure on the opposition.  Holland are good and experienced enough to keep the ball and to pass out of trouble.  And they hopefully wont give Spain the respect that they got from all the other teams.  They certainly did not earn that respect this WC.  Both teams know each other very well.  Many Dutch players play or have played in Spain.  Some have been team-mates of the Spaniards on their club sides.  I believe that Bert van Marwijk is a better tactician than his counterpart.

Both teams have the hopes of their nations to finally achieve the dream of becoming World Champions (true World Champions, not like what American sports teams from local leagues call themselves).  Holland sacrificed they great attacking play for results.  Spain were one of the big favourites, after finally winning the Euros.

So hopefully it will be a good game, though I suspect, not as good and the third place match on Saturday.  Players just want to get over the disappointment of losing the semis and go all out to win.  No pressure.  The final will have all the pressure.  It might start off quite slowly with both teams just probing each other.  But things can happen very quickly and a goal will change the game to an open contest.  Lets hope for a quality match, and lets hope that Holland win this thing.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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US Out of the World Cup- South Africa 2010

Here endeth the story.  The United States National Team is out of the World Cup after losing in extra time by a score of 2-1.  This defeat was reflective of the whole US World Cup experience, except this time there was no magical comeback.  Well, there was one, but today, we needed two.

The team that captured the imagination of America like never before is now out.  And that is a shame for the Team, the supporters and for soccer in general in America.  The USMNT leaves with heads held high.  But its obvious we’re not there yet, not with the best teams.  What the US lacked in talent and skill, they made up in heart and tenacity and that never say die spirit.  However, today it was clear from the start that the last great 91st minute comeback took more out of the team than they would care to admit.

They came out flat, without energy and once again gave up an early goal.  And there was no response in the first half.  Ghana outplayed the US.  What was worse Ghana controlled the play, that meant not only finding the extra energy to comeback, but also working harder than usual.  The team without the ball, constantly defending, expends more energy.  Once again I thought Bob Bradley, the US coach, made a mistake with his formation and starting line up.  US came out in a 4-4-2 formation and started the ineffective Findley up front and the very poor Clark in the midfield.  Ghana went with a formation that clogged up the middle.  The US midfielders had no time on the ball.  And in the 5th minute Clark lost the ball in the middle of the pitch.  Poor defending followed the Ghana counter attack.  Howard’s positioning was bad and the US found themselves behind early once again.

Such traditions are to be discouraged.  For, once again it was up to the Americans to find the extra energy and inspiration to comeback.  Clark quickly got a yellow card and was soon substituted by Edu, who should have started in the first place as part of a three men midfield.  That energy was not coming.  Not until the second half.  Failhaber once again came on for the ineffective Findley.  The formation changed and the US started to impose themselves on Ghana.  Within 20 minutes of the second half the game was tied.  US won a penalty in the box.  A good call.  Donovan stepped up and scored off the post.

But even the celebrations were somewhat muted.  It was the US’s game to lose now.  Ghana looked shaken, they looked like they lost belief.  But US pressure whimpered out.  Ghana came back in the game and started to threaten themselves.  For the rest of regular time no one could find that extra inspiration that would put their team through.    The now lone striker, Altidore, who looked as if he was playing with bricks tied to his feet, was replaced by Gomez.  A pair of fresh legs was needed.  More than a pair.  But this was the last US sub, due to bad line up and mistakes the US were forced to make changes early.  They were good substitutions once again, but using two early on is never ideal.  And it happened once again.  Very early in extra time the US failed to deal with a long ball, lost possession, and gave up a goal to Ghana.  Shocking mistake.

The US mounted a yet another comeback attempt.  But this one was toothless.  Players looked exhausted, both physically and mentally.  Passes were not sharp nor accurate.  Runs were not made.  Decisions were laboured.  Several times we saw hesitancy, no one touch pass and move, no give and go.  The US pretty much contented themselves to the long ball approach.  Meanwhile Ghana were content to sit back, absorb the pressure and come out in control of the ball, wasting time at every opportunity.  Soon time was up.  And the inevitable came.

And looking back, it was inevitable.  A team can not go behind so many times and hope to comeback each and every time.  Whether it was preparation, silly mental mistakes from players who slowly get into games, whatever, its just impossible to keep doing this.

And so the valiant effort is over.  The whole nation and and should be proud of its team.  They are a good team.  Not there yet, among the best, but not very far behind.  Just how the US team will do in the future we do not know.  But we should be proud of them and support them as much as we can.  Whether one is a long time football fanatic, or new to this soccer World Cup thingy, this team deserves to be remembered and supported by all of us.  They gave their all.  In the end only one country can win this.  This is the final, because the whole tournament started 2 or even 3 years ago.  Over 200 teams tried to qualify.  Just to make it is an honour.  To be one of the 32 out of over 200 contenders is already special.  To make it to the last 16 even more so.

Perhaps this team lost a great opportunity for the development of soccer in the US.  A run to the semi final would have had the whole country in grips.  So this is a lost opportunity on more than one level.  But I am sure that soccer has gained many more followers.  Each US success, each major tournament, turns more and more Americans onto the beautiful game.  In the space of few days we lived through the great high that only the World Cup can provide.  And though low of ultimate disappointment, knowing that another chance wont come for another 4 years.

The World Cup is the most special of sporting events.  Yes, more special than the Olympics.  Its focused on nothing but one sport.  Its contested by everyone.  And unlike the Olympics, we don’t get to choose which sport to follow.  Its all or nothing.  One team, one destiny.  No second chances with some other stars the next day.  There is nothing like it on earth.  And I hope the those who saw it for the first time are as hooked as those of us who have followed this game since we were kids.

So, while I am disappointed, heart broken really.  I take heart that the team I support did everything possible to stay alive.  And I am proud of the boys, and I want to say:  Thanks for the memories.  USA!  USA!!

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Itialian and French World Cup Fiasco a Good Thing?

Just 4 Years Ago

Yes, its a strange question to pose.  And I doubt anyone in Italy or France would agree right now.  But I think long term this could be a positive.  Yes, even the French dramatics.  Both countries went into this World Cup with as many questions as hopes for glory.  And to be honest it could have gone either way.  Ribery could have turned into the next Zidane and could have led his team to glory.  They sure had the talent to go far, but shot themselves in the foot.  Italy was a bit more of an enigma.  There were questions about the selection.  After an uninspired European Championship in 2008 the old professor Marcello Lippi came back to regain glory for Italy.  And this was Italy after all, count them out at your peril.

But as with France the result was a total disaster.  Last place in their group, and a ticket back home in tears.  I am sure there are many rotten tomatoes awaiting the Azzurri.  We all saw what happened.  I documented the problems in the French camp here, even though there was a bit more handbags and one more terrible game to play before they went home.  But lets look at what they can learn from this and how quickly they can move on.


It Was In the Stars

The main problem was the French Football Federation’s (FFF) insistence in not firing Raymond Domenech two years ago.  Yes, it was that simple.  Yes they got to the WC final in 2006 but it was not through great tactics and system.  Zinedine Zidane took the team and the whole nation on his back and carried them to the final.  He inspired the whole team.  Only to leave the game in infamy after headbutting an Italian player late in the game.  It would have been difficult to fire Domenech then.  So they stuck with him.  But after the Euros in 2008 he should have been gone.  It was very obvious to everyone but the FFF.  Perhaps the stars said they will do well in 2010, but stars lie sometimes.  And its not as if France lacked great young managers.  Anyone managing Lyon was a candidate, so were the very bright Deshamps and Blanc (who was named as the successor to Domenech before this WC).  But leaving him and then announcing before the WC that he will be replaced was a stupid move.

And French football stars did not help.  The locker room became split.  No one able to step up, no leaders among great players and veterans.  France lost this WC campaign before they even landed in South Africa.  Plus I don’t think the way they got there helped.  Despite having one of the most talented teams in the competition they gave themselves no chance.

So Laurent Blanc has an easy job now.  Yes.  Despite the crushing way they went out, and despite the problems Blanc’s job was made so much easier because of those things.  Now even if he wants to keep some great players who are still young enough, like Ribery, out of the squad he has the perfect excuse.  He can make his own team.  One that will be indebted to him and one that will listen to him.  Pundits too will give him time, as will the fans.  The team must be rebuilt.  France has a lot of young, very talented players.  And once they become a proper team they can be a force in football for a long time.

It wont take long for France to become a strong team once again.  I think they could even be a force in the next European Championships.  And those ageing and whining stars just made it easier for Blanc to rebuild the team and do his job properly without much resistance from fans and media.

Forza Geriatrics?

Despite not being the oldest squad in the WC there were may questions about their age.  Especially about some of their important players.  Fabio Canavarro, the over hyped leader and captain of Italy in 2006 and 2010 is 36.  Well El Capitano has not played nay decent football since that World Cup glory in Germany.  Unfortunately Marcello Lippi paid no attention to that and stuck with El Capitano.

There were other question about the current World Champions and four time winners.  No leader in the midfield other than Andrea Pirlo who was injured.  Lippi’s insistence on not taking the enigmatic, but brilliant, Cassano.  Taking and not playing Gattuso.  Why was he there if he was not going to play?  Why not take a younger player who might learn from this?

Marcello Lippi left the job in glory in 2006.  Roberto Donadoni was chosen as his successor.  It was an impossible job.  So he was done after 2008.  But Lippi made the mistake of coming back and now leaves in infamy.  People will quickly forget his brilliant leadership if 2oo6.  And this time there was no Roberto Baggio who could lead the team like in 1994.  No one stepped up.  No veteran, no youngster.  Italy were uninspired.  Playing without urgency.  It was almost a mirror image of France, but without the visible drama off the pitch.  Last World Cup the scandal in Serie A helped the Italian Squad.  It brought them closer, it was them against the world.  Now there was no scandal.

Well the scandal was their play on the pitch.  Italy were traditionally slow starters.  So a draw against a strong Paraguay was not a bad result really.  But not winning against New Zealand was shocking.  And their performance against what till today was a very poor Slovakia side was disgraceful.  They tried for 20 of the 90+ minutes played.  A pathetic showing.  Poor and still unfit Andrea Pirlo, always a class act, came on in desperation to try to lead them to victory, but even he was not enough.  Silly give aways, terrible play in the midfield and defence, and inept attack did Italy in.

There will be no great drama like with the French.  But a lot of questions will be asked.  Cesare Prandelli will take over for the retired Lippi.  Like with Blanc, his job will be made easier.  No more silly expectations, no more old stars who can no longer play at this level.  A new Italy will emerge.  With younger players, with new leaders, new set up.  Italy also has many young talented players.  I am not sure if it will take about 2 or 4 years for them to be back near the top of footballing world, but it will be no longer than that.  Italians are winners.  New players will step up.  New Baggios, Rossis, and Pirlos will be found.  Prandelli will rebuild the team in his image.  He will utilize the players talents and mould the formation that will fit them best.  No more relying on past their prime old horses who can not play any more.

Yes its no consolation today for either Italy of France.  But the misery and shame will not last long.  Both will be back and soon.  So those despairing should take note, sometimes a revolution is needed.  And this pathetic showing helped make that transition easier.

USA Win Their Group in a Dramatic Finish- World Cup 2010 South Africa

Celebration after Donovan makes it US 1-0 Algeria

Well this has not happened before.  The United States National Team won their Group to advance to the Round of 16 at the World Cup.  Unreal.  It was a dramatic ending to a very dramatic match.  Once again US came close to giving up an early goal.  Jay Demerit failed to clear a long ball and it went to an Algerian forward who hit the crossbar.

But from then on the Yanks were the dominant team.  Algeria, despite needing a result themselves, was content to sit back and try to hit US on the break.  Joy turned into despair for America, yet another scored goal was whistled back.  This time for offside, though Dempsey looked level with the play.  More chances came, more close calls, but it ended with 0-0 at the half.  And all this while we heard that England scored.  That meant the US needed to win to progress.

Gomez was taken of at halftime.  Failhaber came in.  The US kept creating more chances,  yet nothing went in.  Dempsey came close once again but the shot went of the post.  More misery and heart attacks for the US supporters.  As time kept ticking away mercilessly I started to despair.  We just couldn’t score, no breaks came our way, the ball did not bounce for us.  It was a repeat of the first half.  Headers, open net shots, nothing.  We had a perfect shout for a penalty (and a red for Algeria) when Dempsey was elbowed in the box.  But the refs did not see it.

As 90 minutes came to a close hearts were racing.  The US, to their credit, kept composure, always believing their would get one more chance.  And that chance came after 91 minutes were played.  Howard threw far to his right, Donovan got the ball, run with it a few yards, passed it forward to Altidore, he crossed and from up close Dempsey shot right at the keeper.  The shot was saved, not again!!!  But the keeper spilled it, Donovan thankfully was following the play and put it in.  it was amazing, even Ian Darke, an English commentator went mad for us.  Great stuff.

Donovan. American Hero

Oh the madness!!!  Football (soccer) can be such a cruel game.  But the joy it brings us is incomparable.  Just Amazing!!!  My heart is still racing.  We kept a clean sheet, and won the game in the most dramatic fashion.  We are still in it.  Saturday at 2:30 PM EST the US will attempt to progress to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.  Lets cheers on our boys, they deserve our support.