Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTogether. Diving. We Stand - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Together. Diving. We Stand - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Together. Diving. We Stand

“It’s a man’s game”. Yeah right! Do we really want this to be the slogan of the FA? For one thing the women’s game is growing and should be given all the financial backing that can be thrown at it so it can continue to grow. From watching the most recent tournaments the women’s game does seem to be more honest than the men’s. So perhaps all those that are fed up of watching all those “foreigners” dive should start watching their local women’s team. We do like to have it in our heads that these words “it’s a man’s game” should be revered above all others in the “English game”. Lets face it though, we haven’t won a major tournament in a very long time so perhaps it isn’t an English game anymore. It is a sport that is now a world game, but that is not to say that we should not try and protect our own leagues from the threat of diving as well as other forms of unfair play.

Perhaps we should get away from the idea that it is an influx of foreign players that are the main cause of this. It has been around for awhile now, even though it has really taken off over the last few years. Ideas of fair play and the idealising of players who like to “put the boot in” seems to suggest that the “English” idea of fair play is a skewed one anyway.

I do not think that the quintessentially “English” Roy Keane tackle on Haaland in 2001 was just another honest type challenge that we so desperately want to see in our game. It consequently ended the Manchester City players career. Keane has since admitted to intentionally meaning to hurt the player. I know Derby matches stir up strong emotions, which we all like to see in players, but there was nothing good about that tackle.

Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes in 2006 was not a fair tackle. Thatcher blatantly elbowed Mendes in the face causing him to require oxygen before being stretchered off the pitch, he then suffered from a seizure while being transferred to hospital where he spent the night. That’s just not cricket.      

There are other players that have reputations for liking a tackle, which is a good thing, however some of those players are just nasty pieces of work. Liking a tackle is very different to being dangerous while you are doing it. Joey Barton and Lee Cattermole spring to mind. Lee Cattermole is not a very good tackler because he gets sent off a lot, what is the point in that, it does not help your team and does not get the fans on your side.

What I am not doing here is trying to suggest that all British players are dirty fouling cheats, certainly not. There are a lot of players that are great at just getting on with the game, they tackle hard but they do it fairly. They do not dive, they do not intentionally hurt people and they do not moan.

 Dawson, Cahill, Jarvis, Henry, Parker, Hargreaves (when he plays), King and Woodgate (likewise), Shawcross, Smalling, Jones, Baines, Brown, Warnock, O’Hara, Carrick, Hibbert, Jagielka and there are a lot more. These players are in positions that either requires a lot of tackling or being tackled. The same can be said for these other players.

Assou-Ekotto, Samba, Huth, Park, Kompany, Enrique, Skrtel, Essien, Elokobi, Palacios, Cabaye, Zabaleta, Sandro, Kuyt, Distin, Larsson, Riise and Hangeland. These players do not carry reputations for being divers or cheats. Wait a moment though, these players aren’t English!

One of my favourite players is Assou-Ekotto because he does not bother to argue or be aggressive with other players. He will put a tackle in and do his best to be proper and fair. If a player doesn’t like it and squares up to him he just walks away. It is great to see that in the modern game, and it does not happen too often. All he does is get on with the job in hand and sometimes he makes mistakes but he doesn’t let it bother him. The same is true for a lot of players in the Premier League, as my lists suggests. Many of the foreign players are also very good at being quintessentially “English”, and determination is the key for that.

It is perhaps the most sought after attribute for the “English” game. A desire and want to only do your very best every single game. Chasing back 50 yards to make a tackle. Sprinting after a lost cause in the 90th minute when a goal behind. That is what a fan loves to see, a player do everything they can to win a game for their team.

Here are my top three determined players in the Premiership. Rooney, Tevez and Kuyt.

Rooney’s temperament has often got him into trouble, but his temper seems to have chilled over the past season or two. He is a winner, he always wants the ball and he is willing to do his bit defensively for the team. Defend from the front is really true in his case, and when he does it with his head in check a Rooney tackle on a defender is a great sight. Born in Croxteth Liverpool, he earned his current England and Manchester United favourite status through the ranks at Everton.

So onto the other two, born in Salford and Toxteth they were not. Kuyt grew up in the fishing village of  Katwijk aan Zee in whilst Tévez was born Carlos Alberto Martínez in Ciudadela, Buenos Aires, and raised in the neighbourhood of Ejército de Los Andes, better known as “Fuerte Apache“. This does not matter though to the Liverpool or Manchester City fans as they are two of the most hardworking players in the Premiership. They are loved by their supporters and respected by most fans of other clubs because, on the pitch, they do not sulk and they give their all. They play the game as it should be, honestly. The “English” way.

Not every player is like this though and there are some real sulkers in the Premier League. I would put these along par with the nasty players in the League that really do annoy me and most other fans. Drogba has to be top of that list. On his day the big Chelsea centre forward is unplayable, whether you are Vidic or Bramble, you won’t get near him. He is quick, strong, and determined. However, he also falls over at the slightest touch, which just is not right.

I do think that there is something fundamentally wrong in the world of football at the moment. There is too much money in the game, there cannot be a justification for the wages some players get when there is so much poverty in the world. I do believe that football does have the power to do good, such as the charity games and being involved in local communities. Villa made a grand gesture a few seasons ago by having the West-Midlands based Acorns Children’s Hospice on their shirts instead of a sponsor. All this needs to continue and to grow. At the moment the game does have a bad reputation and that is certainly down to, among other things, the actions of the players on the pitch. Arguing with the referee is now taken as a given, as is shirt pulling, flashing imaginary cards and diving. The one thing that annoys me personally more than anything else is players squaring up to each other, heads together like rutting stags. They just look stupid, it does not look aggressive and macho, it looks like they are trying to kiss each other but can’t quite work out how. None of these things are positive messages to send to kids watching the game, nor is swearing on camera Mr. Rooney. The thing that annoys the majority of football fans the most though is so-called “simulation”. That is because we all remember playing the game for our schools and local teams and to fall to the ground was the last thing you wanted to do. You always wanted to stay on your feet, to show that it took a lot to put you on the floor and when that was not possible, you got up as quick as you could. For the professional footballer you can say that more is at stake and that they are trying their best to win, and if that means they pretend to be injured to waste time, dive to get players sent off or dive to win penalties then that is just part of the game. I would say though that no true football fan wants to see their players do any of that, not even if it wins them a game.

For me, a dive is going to ground when it is unnatural. For instance the two penalty shouts at Scotland’s game against the Czech Republic. Neither were penalties. The first one, that was given to the Czechs, I think was given because of the position of the referee and that from his angle it looked like the forward had his legs swept out from beneath him. On replay, it shows that it was a dive. Up the other end though, Berra felt the slightest of touches and went down when he should have stayed on his feet. It was a dive, as it was unnatural to fall from that touch. The referee’s position for that incident was a lot better, as his view was not blocked. However, all the pundits scream penalty. Now if that second incident was also a Czech player the view might be slightly different.

The stereotype hardman himself Joey Barton was in the spotlight very early in the season. Falling to the floor at the brush of Gervinho’s hand. Now, Gervinho deserved to be sent off but Joey Barton is surely tougher than that. Being one of those players who are famous for putting the boot in its interesting to see how even he is seduced to go to ground easily.

I think the point of all this is to say that we need to get away from the idea that “foreigners” are ruining our “English” game. These sorts of campaigns can easily fall into that trap, but there needs to be the singular focus on just trying to get diving out of the game. We can get carried away at worshipping players who kick other players about a bit because those that dive really annoy us. I say that those players are just as guilty as unfair play as those who fall to the ground. Players dive and players hack no matter what their nationality.

It is time to make the game fairer and get rid of diving. It is the FA who really need to make these changes so we need to put pressure on them. With a greater power to look back at games and punish players with bans for diving would soon put it into people’s heads that it is not the thing to do. They already look at violent conduct after the games so why can’t they also look at instances of “simulation” and punish accordingly. If the teams knew that their players might face bans if they dived it would soon be discouraged.   

I think it is about time that professional footballers were more honest and they can start by kicking “simulation” out of the game. Together. Diving. We Stand.

Josh Giles



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