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Why diving scourge won't go away

21 Jan 2013 | 06:42-Philip Micallef

Professional footballers seem to have thumbed their noses at authority by continually flouting the rules of diving.

Their coaches and managers do not appear to be hellbent on eradicating the problem, either.

Although the game's law makers keep telling us that they are winning the war against divers thanks mainly to video technology and retroactive punishment, many players seem to be ever so ready to take the risk of falling over to win fouls or penalties or even get opponents sent off.

The prevailing attitude seems to be 'hey, the rewards far outweigh the risks of being caught so, what the heck, let's take a chance'.

The players' cynical attitude is helped in no small measure by their respective bosses' approach to the thorny issue.

Many coaches in Australia and around the world are the first to let everyone know that they have been cheated whenever their team falls victim to a blatant dive that leads to defeat.

Yet you can bet that those same managers who take the moral high ground on the matter become somewhat sheepish when it comes to condemning their own players who are guilty of the same offence.

Which makes you wonder if this diving dilemma has become just a topic for conversation or a complete charade with no hope of being eliminated.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez got into trouble with his manager Brendan Rodgers for admitting he tried to earn a penalty with a dive in a goalless match against Stoke City.

This admission prompted Rodgers to have a word with his human headline because diving is not what the club stands for, he said.

It is unclear, however, if Rodgers was more upset by Suarez's attempted dive or by the fact that he admitted it in public.

If Rodgers's views about diving are that strong, why did he criticise the Uruguayan now and not after the incident occurred in October when he rigorously stood by the striker?

Australia is not immune from diving, although fortunately the problem is not as deep-rooted as it is in some parts of the world.

Some A-League players have yet to be persuaded that diving is unacceptable in Australia and culprits eventually could be punished but they still take the risk, perhaps because they know that it is hard to establish beyond doubt if a player voluntarily fell to the ground to seek an unfair advantage.

Since the A-League is not always in a position to take firm action on divers it is up to coaches or clubs to dissuade their players from the practice.

So what do the A-League's coaches think about the issue? How serious are they about playing their part in kicking diving out of the game?

Seven A-League coaches were asked: "If your player wins a penalty with a clear dive would you publicly/privately berate him or let it go?"

The response was indicative of the game's inability, reluctance or even refusal to get to the bottom of the diving problem.

Only one coach replied to this fair and reasonable question.

"It would only ever be discussed privately," Adelaide United's John Kosmina said.

"If a player wins a penalty from a dive who then is at fault - the player or the referee who awarded it?

"He's got two assistants and a fourth official who are all miked up.

"If he knows what he's doing and understands the physiology of the game then no penalty.

"Having said that, diving has been around since the beginning and will always be there despite efforts to stamp it out.

"Philosophically football is like life and people 'dive' in life, that is, someone is always trying to rort the system, trying to get something for nothing."

Kosmina's candid comments and his colleagues' silence would suggest that the status quo on diving suits most coaches perfectly.

Many coaches around the world might consider the diving question as their 'get out of jail' card.

If their team is the victim of a decisive dive they have a ready-made excuse if they lose while if their team is the perpetrator and wins the game, they would have a result in the bag.

So why rock the boat?

I think diving is going to be around for a long time.

About this blog


Philip Micallef

Philip Micallef is a football writer with almost 40 years of experience. He has worked for News Limited and now SBS. He is a long-time follower of AC Milan.
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