Surely it’s time we accept that British players are just as guilty at diving as the rest.
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“In Latin countries, it’s applauded if you gain a penalty or free-kick. But the reason why people enjoy the Barclays Premier League, for me, is because of the honesty and integrity of it. We need to stop this horrible simulation which, unfortunately, has crept in,” said Steve Bruce at the weekend.
The Hull City boss hadn’t just seen Johnny Foreigner do it, no! It was England’s brave Gary Cahill throwing himself to the floor, trying to cheat and deceive his side to a penalty, early in the second half of Chelsea’s 2-0 win over the Tigers.
Yes, even though it was one of England’s own sons diving onto her green and pleasant pastures – the foreigners somehow still got the blame.
The problem with perceptions like this is that it ignores the ever-rising mounts of evidence that English and British players in the Barclays Premier League are just as guilty if not more prolific at diving than their foreign cousins. This despite players from the home nations actually being in the minority in the Premier League compared to players from other countries.
“I’d never dive. I’d like to think of myself as an honest player. That’s the way I play. I don’t like diving, football doesn’t need it,” said England lionheart Wayne Rooney in 2006.
Unfortunately, Rooney must have undiagnosed amnesia as just two years prior, his pitiful collapse in the penalty box helped Manchester United stop Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run in its tracks. Poor Wayne. And just earlier this year the England captain was again accused of throwing himself to the ground to get Bastian Schweinsteiger a second yellow card in Manchester United’s Champions League tie with Bayern.
But where was the polarisation? Where was the press baying for the England captain’s blood?
It seems like it’s one rule for foreign players and one for British. Whenever the likes of Rooney have flopped to the floor without contact there has been a laughable lack of coverage. Sure, there are a few spluttered words of condemnation or a gentle slap on the wrist but the scrutiny British, particularly English, players find themselves under when they decide to cheat is essentially the press rubbing their bellies and telling them what a cheeky chappie they are.
Just compare it with the sort of witch hunt/public execution style coverage we’ve seen for the likes of Arsenal’s Eduardo da Silva or former Liverpool striker David N’Gog when they’ve taken a tumble under minimal or no contact. It fathoms belief.
Perhaps the main issue with diving in some of the cases with the most public outcry has been the idea that the diver has gained something by performing the act. Eduardo, for instance, got a penalty which allowed his side to take the lead when he did it and a smattering of foreign players who have been pilloried for diving have claimed there are certain situations when the practice is acceptale. Cristiano Ronaldo is a famous proponent of this mind-set as is Gareth Bale who said: “I’m not going to put my career at risk if I think a challenge coming in on me could be dangerous. I would rather go to ground than let that happen. I’m not condoning diving. I’m not a cheat. But there are certain circumstances that justify going down.”
With the number of English players who have a heavy record of diving; just see Rooney, Gerrard, Ashley Young, Welbeck, you’d believe some would be sympathetic to this mind-set but none would ever approach the issue so openly or even comment on it save for claiming it the practice of the devil as they would no doubt be crucified by sanctimony personified; the “British Press”.
To claim sympathy with divers would be seen to be going against the “honesty” and “integrity” mantra that Steve Bruce insinuated in his post match comments hence why he reasoned diving was a foreign import and that English players would never dive.
It’s this kind of sanctimony which is why diving is such a fundamental problem in this country. Whenever the issue rears it’s ugly head, it’s as if those with a voice in the game and press suddenly turn into potential UKIP candidates and the blame is firmly laid at anyone who isn’t from this country.
All while, they’re trying to hide away the latest piece of evidence to not address that it’s a generic football issue, and that English players are just as guilty of doing it as anyone. The evidence is getting pretty insurmountable now.
If there’s truly a desire to rid the game from the scourge of diving then it’s time for a perception change.