Not real, but simulated | FIFA wants tougher policing on dives

Few solutions, however, seem ready-made for an affliction that, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba excepted, no one is ready to admit to doing. Everton’s Alan Stubbs points the xenophobic finger abroad, saying that diving “is a foreign thing.” “They’ve,” meaning non-English players, “brought a lot of good things to the Premiership but a lot of the other side, too. … It’s the last thing you want to see. It’s not a man thing to do.”

With these prefatory remarks, we can confess to our own penchant for dives. We play strictly in casual, unofficiated park games, but the joy of going to ground has basic origins. First, there are few opportunities to fall down in daily life, and we like to take whatever chance we get. Second, it makes one feel that one is participating fully, not holding anything back, and, while we frown on poor sportsmanship, might some of these divers just be going for a little extra gusto?

The original rule book of association football—in FIFA nomenclature, the “Table of the Law”—did not have the foresight to cover diving, although one rule specifically prohibits “tripping or hacking,” a provision that helped force an advocate of the rugby game to leave the Freemasons’ Tavern negotiating table in 1863. The rule book also says that “no player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots,” a problem that for the most part has been conquered.

This humble two-page rule book has been elevated in English writer Melvyn Bragg‘s recent tome to a place among Twelve Books That Changed the World, so no sniggering. While the pub-going public-school men could not have foreseen everything, they “enabled the world to play a game which now commands a unique and previously uncharted, unimagined empire of followers, participants, fanatics and rich merchants,” writes Bragg in an excerpt. The rules set the boundaries, permitting the creativity, feigned and otherwise, within. In this, the game offers space for both Drogba and Fabregas and remains, in Bragg’s words, “a masterpiece of socio-leisure architecture.”

Link to more about the Bodleian book

The publicists say: “Every rule is accompanied by images from the hand-written manuscript preserved at The FA which records the first time that anyone put pen to paper and wrote down the fundamental tenets of football. …”

Update: The Bodleian Library of Oxford University has published The Rules of Association Football, 1863, in time for the World Cup finals. With an afterword by Bragg and a foreword by Sir Bobby Charlton, the 56-page hardback includes facsimiles of the original 1863 manuscript, which had been preserved by the FA before transfer to Oxford.

In an Apr 15 appearance on Parkinson, the ITV chat show hosted by iconic Michael Parkinson, Bragg spent much of the time discussing his inclusion of the “Laws of Association Football” (see transcript). In particular the two banter about Bragg’s claim that “football has been more effective than anything else in Britain in combating racism.” Parkinson mounts a counterargument and, in addition, makes his affection for cricket quite clear:

Bragg: I’m not saying [football is] the best game Michael, cricket might be the best game! [Laughter]

Parkinson: It is. 

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1 comment on this post.
  1. Brian:

    It is absolutely impossible to talk about diving without talking about its evil Siamese twin: shirt pulling. When you watch high-level soccer, it’s a miracle that anyone ever scores off a set piece given how much shirt grabbing takes place. Why is it that shirt pulling is called “tight marking” but diving is angrily condemned? They’re both cheating.

    The other dirty little secret of diving is this: many times, it’s the only way to get a legitimate foul called. I watched an MLS game last year where a defender bumped a forward who was running on to a through ball. The forward stumbled but stayed on his feet and the ball went out of bounds. Amazingly, the ref still pointed to the penalty spot. And it occurred to me that I didn’t know if I’d ever seen that before. Sure, the foul was legitimate and the penalty deserved. But 99% of the time, the ref will not call a foul unless the player goes to ground (99.9999999% if it’s a question of awarding a penalty).

    So in our haste to send divers to the electric chair, let’s also demand that officials call legitimate fouls that don’t result in a player going to ground. If you want to discourage diving, reward players who stay on their feet!

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