Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughDiving Campaign - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Diving Campaign - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Diving Campaign

‘It’s a man’s game.’  Those four words have summed up the game of football amongst British supporters for generations, with our bulldog spirit lusting after a crunching tackle or forceful header with greater passion than any display of sublime skill or technique.  It is in this country where the image of Terry Butcher’s blood-stained shirt is revered as much as Paul Gascoigne’s awesome strike against Scotland at Euro 96.  This country is where Chris Morgan has earned cult hero status, where Des Walker has amassed 59 England caps, and where Lee Cattermole commands a transfer fee of £6 million for his ability to ‘put his foot in’.

Times are changing though.  The Nineties saw a cultural shift in the English game, with an influx of continental wisdom transforming the likes of Tony Adams from chain-smoking brute to ball-playing centre half.  The benefits were huge, with an improved diet and greater composure on the ball making our game a lot easier on the eye.  However, with the good unfortunately came the bad.  Sulking superstars, a lack of effort and of course, the dreaded diving have all spread across our game and contaminated many a young football fan’s brain, who now seem keener on winning penalties than tackles whilst playing for their Sunday morning teams.

It’s just not the British way, is it?  Honesty, determination and fair play are all we ask of our players.  Even if they lose, playing with passion, desire and, above all else, honesty is enough for players to earn the respect of the majority of England’s football fans.  However, the money in football nowadays, coupled with the massive media scrutiny, has made the stakes astronomically high, higher than ever before.  So high in fact that even the most honest of footballers will likely consider taking a tumble in the box just to earn their team a chance at a precious three points.

This willingness to compromise on fair play is a continuing trend of English players losing touch with the English-style game.  As a more continental influence spreads across the country’s pitches, so our boys are being seduced by the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that fuels our European and South American counterparts, with a footballing choice between right and wrong often decided by a the promise of a fat pay-cheque rather than any moral dilemma.  A look back at last summer’s World Cup though will provide testament to the fact that this doesn’t work for us.

The Premier League is the most competitive in the world.  Spain has two outstanding teams and very little else; Germany is improving but has very few real world class players, whereas Italian football at present is a shambles.  Here, every game faced by those in our top division is a hard one.  But why is the Premier League so competitive? Simple: because it is English.  It retains that fierce tribal quality, where the underdog has its day, where fighting spirit can conquer all and nobody ever, ever gives up.  It is in this blood-and-thunder domain that English players flourish, yet put them together on the international stage and suddenly we look like a bunch of little boys lost.

That is because we’re trying to be something we’re not.  We lose the things that make us great; we lose the intensity, pace and tempo associated with English league football, instead looking to replicate the slow, methodical build up adopted by the likes of Spain.  And unfortunately, Spain are much better at being Spain than we are.  We are England.  So why don’t we play like them?

The time has come to remember who we are and what we stand for.  While we at Football Friends can’t inject this passion directly into our players (although we’d bloody well like to) we can at least get back to a key cornerstone of the British game: honesty.  Starting with diving.

While the F.A continues to display a lax attitude to the whole problem, this magazine will not.  Yes, your nippy little winger going over in the box may earn your team a penalty, it may allow you to pick up a much valued away win and it may make your drive home down the M1 that much easier.  But it’s cheating and the English don’t cheat.  So don’t condone it.

Reject those players whose balance regularly fails them.  Exclude those players who wave their arms around in frenetic fashion seeking a foul.  And reserve your most vile of hatred for that most disgusting of breed; the ‘face-grabber’.  A mere brush of the palm across a player’s face does not warrant a period of ten minutes on the ground claiming you are blind.  Let the next player to do this be told so, in no uncertain terms.

We at Football Friends will do all we can to rid the game of its divers.  We will draw attention to and widely condemn any guilty players; we will name, shame and hopefully embarrass even the most famous of footballer.  But it is with you, the reader, to take up the mantle, to embrace the campaign and chastise the players that are ruining the spirit of the English game with their constant melodramatics.  For too long we have stood back and let the precious commodity of English football slip away from us.  Together, we can get it back.   

 Jon Vale

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