Liverpool supporters are probably sick to death of the Liverpool bashing in the media over the last few weeks, but the fact is they are giving the press so much material, and can expect little else. Their form has been terrible, and apart from one match, against United, they have looked more like relegation candidates then league challengers. What that suggests is that they seem to get their spirit up for the derby and are unable to do the same for all other games, domestic or in Europe. That’s a sad indication of the control Rafa has over his misfiring team.
Last night they were lucky to get away with a point against Birmingham. That they did escape with a draw, and not their 6th league defeat of the season, owed everything to do with the bane of football – diving. When Americans think of soccer, they don’t think of the game we all know and love, they think of men falling and writhing around with exaggerated pain. They call it a sissy’s game, forgetting for convenience that their “football” is played with more pads and protection that an over cautious, paranoid, parents baby proofing house. However the fact is that diving, and theatrics, have become an embarrassment and shame of the sport, and not a way to showcase the game.
Diving is more prevalent in Spain and Italy than it is in England, but that isn’t saying much. It hasn’t so much as creeped into English football but rather immersed itself in what many see as the strongest league in the world. Make no mistake, these players aren’t being clever, but are cheating. They are conning the ref’s and are shamming and embarrassing their team, their club, their fans and the sport.
David Ngog’s goal last night was a brilliant and lethal finish. He hit that ball as sweet as he could ever hope. But his biggest contribution to his team would be by cheating and winning his team a penalty in the second half. He should be ashamed of himself but will probably be congratulated by his team mates for gaining them a point. Rafa even admitted afterwards that Ngog said he didn’t think it was a penalty. While Rafa did admit so much, and that is more than most managers would do, the game needs managers and team mates to come out against such behaviour and not defend it when it benefits them, and speak out when it goes against them. You can’t have it both ways.
Lets name and shame divers – even if they play for your team. The best players are as guilt as the less talented players in the league. When Christiano Ronaldo first game to England he was guilty of diving a lot. It was a trait he brought with him from Portugal, as was very evident when Porto played English teams in the Champions League. While Ronaldo curbed his diving as his career progressed, perhaps with prompting from his team mates and manager, his early years of falling to the ground hurt him later as defenders got away with kicking lumps out of him and ref’s letting his early reputation cloud their decisions. Before Ronaldo left for Spain he was denied many legitimate penalties with refs falsely accusing him of diving. The ground work was laid in his teens, much to his disadvantage. Another United player, and again a Portuguese player, Nani, is another who needs to stay on his feet more. Nani doesn’t actually dive in the sense that Ngog did, he tends to go to ground at the slightest bit of contact, rolling around, clutching himself, as if he’s been shot. If Nani stayed on his feet his United career would probably be more advanced then it is. Contact that actually takes him to ground will get him free kicks, going to ground to easily, and the theatrics that follow, will only harm his development and gain him an unwanted reputation.
Like Nani, Arsenals Robin van Persie is not actually a diver, per say. When contact is made he makes the most of it, ensuring that he gets a free kick or penalty. He’s more of an embellisher than a cheat. He gets fouled and then theatrically goes to ground, making sure the ref and everyone else knows that he has been fouled. While not as shameful as Ngog’s theatrics, it is again something that should be cut down. While not actually cheating a player of his skill and class has more to offer young fans then this.
Another player who’s skill and talent are supplemented by bouts of cheating is Chelsea’s Drogba. Drogba is perhaps one of the strongest players in the league, but like Nani he just needs a feather touch to go down as if he’s been shot. He then rolls around, complaining, limps when he gets up, and miraculously fully recovers once the defender has been given a card, and steps up to take the free kick. Drogba also doesn’t need a touch to go down. He’s happy to dive when he can. There’s no doubt that on form he is up there with the best in the world, but this part of his game is one that he can do without.
Ngog is in good company at Liverpool and is following the example of his captain Steven Gerrard. Liverpool fans have been very quick to chastise Ronaldo, Drogba, van Persie and co for diving, but because of the god worshipping they bestow on Gerrard they are blind to see that he is probably the worst offender in the league. Gerrard doesn’t even need the player to be close to him to put in an Olympic style dive. His reputation is well known outside of Liverpool and it is the reason why non Liverpool fans don’t speak highly of a player who on his day can be the best in the world. As captain of Liverpool Gerrard should be setting a better example, but his diving has become part of his game.
There should not be a place for diving in soccer. With most top flight games on TV and subject to scrutiny from all angles, diver will be caught out, as Ngog was last night. Ngog has not lived up to the hype that Benitez has placed on his young player, but he has now found a label that all other players and ref’s will be aware of – cheat. The shame and embarrassment must be cast out of the game. Divers must be called out – don’t let your love for a player cloud that.
pic from teamtalk.com