Last Sunday afternoon Juventus went to Bologna and disappointingly took only a point away with them, Juventus had the chance to take all 3 points but Vincenzo Iaquinta failed to convert a penalty they were awarded. The only real piece of controversy in the game was the awarding of said penalty, and perhaps there was some justice in the miss. Milos Krasic burst into the box and, expecting the defender to make a clumsy challenge after the serb had knocked the ball out of his feet, went down with the Bologna defender almost a foot away from any contact. Naturally outrage followed from Bologna’s players and staff as well as many neutrals after the game. The FIGC took action against the winger by giving the Serbian winger a 2 match ban; he will miss Saturday’s big match away to Milan as well as the game against Cesena. The loss is a massive blow to a Juventus side still trying to get into gear and somewhat dependent on Krasic despite Del Neri claims.
The outrage and backlash has led to a wide range of people offering a particular varied set of opinions. Juventus general manager Jean-Claude Blanc echoed the views of manager Gigi Del Neri saying “Milos has a reputation as a clean player. Whomever makes the judgement should take this into account.” He’s not that kind of player then? England manager Fabio Capello has given his thoughts on the argument. “Simulation is a cultural problem. A player only dives because he knows he will be rewarded.” he also says that the problem won’t be solved in a few months, blaming a vicious circle in Italy of players who dive and referees who look to continually stop games.
Learning from the past
It isn’t the first time that the FIGC has meted out multiple game bans for simulation as well as the normal transgressions. In 2007 bans were given to Adriano (Inter) and Zalayeta (Napoli) and in 2005 Ivica Illiev of Messina suffered a similar fate. Illiev’s ban was even extended an extra game because he took the act of gamesmanship one step further by celebrating the decision. There was some speculation that Krasic may have received a similar dressing down after pulling a subdued Tim Henman style fist pump, he appears to have escaped though.
The Scottish FA have not been afraid to use video evidence to ban players who have tried to deceive the officials during games. Kyle Lafferty feigned what looked like a fatal wound during an SPL game against Aberdeen at the end of the 2008/09 season. This poor piece of acting was later used against him and he was found guilty of improper conduct by a disciplinary committee. He was forced to serve his ban at the start of the following season, leaving his team without his services until almost a month into the campaign.
A cultural variance
Italian football has often been described, stereotypically, as being all about the results. In such an atmosphere coaches lose their jobs on the back of a few poor results, a penalty won here or there by hook or by crook can be all it takes to ensure a coach maintains his position.
Diving is a topic which has divided opinion with differing views being taken by fans from all over the globe either despising or tolerating the acts, sometimes hypocritically. Tim Vickery describes the attitude taken by the South American football fans is that a player who dives and is able to trick the referee into giving the infringement has done his club a service, giving them a chance to possibly win the game.
“I believe there is more tolerance of this type of behaviour in South America, where showing the cunning necessary to get away with something is widely praised. In Brazil it is often said that beating a big rival with an illegal goal adds extra pleasure to the victory.”
The view held by many fans I have spoken to in the UK is that it should not be tolerated in any form. They would like to see any deceitful acts struck out from the game, meting out bans to any players who ‘cheat’ or even bend the rules to gain an advantage. In the past the English FA had avoided the issue by wheeling out a FIFA regulation that discouraged the use of video evidence for retrospective actions with regard to non-violence related foul play. However FIFA recently released a statement stating that “they will no longer stand in the way of national associations using video evidence for retrospective punishment”. This has put some pressure back on the FA to act when players so violate the spirit of the game in England where diving appears to be so vehemently detested.
In defence of divers
However there are only a few cases, in my mind, where the player commits a clearly intentional dive. It is one of the beauties of such a subjective sport that events such as these can rarely be viewed as black or white case studies. Then there are also cases where players have intentionally avoided a challenge to evade the possibility of being injured. If a player does take such action their path changes significantly and they will often lose control of the ball or go to ground following a loss of balance, is this still a dive? Many would say so. In these situations a certain amount of benefit of the doubt must be given to the ‘felled’ striker.
The subject was at the very forefront of the news when Eduardo went down rather easily in a Champions League play off in August 2009 following a challenge from the oncoming Artur Boruc, the tie was still poised on a knife edge at the time and Arsenal held only a slender lead. Celtic, their fans and the SFA all pleaded with UEFA to ban the player, which the governing body did. The ban was later revoked following an appeal which was reviewed by a different disciplinary panel to the one which gave the Croat the initial ban, further highlighting the subjective nature which makes the topic a grey area. While it is far from ideal for a player to be sheepish about going into a challenge in such an important game, the brutal nature of his injury provides some mitigating circumstances.
Personally, I have few problems with a player going down easily when contact is made but if there is clear daylight between players it becomes a complete and utter joke. Capello’s comments are particularly poignant when we consider that a player will happily take the risk of a yellow card if there is the possibility of gaining advantages in tight games where the team has struggled to break through and have become devoid of ideas. It bears a similar resemblance to players committing cynical challenges to spoil counter attacks at the opposite end of the field.
Patrick Barclay wrote in The Times at the time of the Eduardo incident that the issue is one which cannot be policed with efficient consistency. If this is the case then any controversy that follow the dive itself will be magnified in cases where the diver is not punished. Another question that warrants consideration is how the result of a game should be affected by retrospective punishment? If a player dives and is awarded a penalty which ultimately decides a playoff or relegation, is the result reversed? Will the goal be taken out of the result and the table adjusted accordingly? A multiple game ban is a worthwhile punishment for any player to take when the possibility of relegation or winning a trophy is at stake! The matter is even further complicated by cup matches, if expunging the goal means the game was a draw do the teams replay? There don’t appear to be any easy answers that satisfy all parties involved. The worry for persons such as myself are summed up quite succintly by John Ley in the Telegraph.
“If the retrospective manner of their charge and suspension continues, what next? Every club who feels aggrieved over a costly defeat in Europe will be scanning every video recording, TV show – even fans’ phone video shots – to find a sly foul, dive or even illegal throw-in.”