Gareth Bale became the first player in Premier League history to have earned himself a one-game suspension after picking up five yellow cards this season, three of them for going down easily, but is he being victimised or does he need to cut out this sort of behaviour from his game for good?

Firstly, the often used cliche by pundits and ex-pros when discussing the issue of diving is that they always argue ‘he’s going to get himself a reputation’. Well that horse has well and truly bolted. Bale undoubtedly has a reputation as a diver, earned for his quite awful fall at work incurred during the 5-2 defeat to Arsenal last season in winning a penalty for his side and he has picked up five cautions for diving since the start of last season.

I feel comfortable calling Bale a diver, just as I would Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney. These are repeat offenders. These are not more examples of Johnny Foreigner over here sullying our good and honest game. These are British players, darn good ones at that, who use the rules and pace of the game to their advantage. It’s cheating, there’s no other word for it.

Bale stated after the Sunderland win where he earned his fifth booking of the season: “That’s three times now I’ve been clipped and booked for no reason. People keep saying I’m diving, but if there’s contact it’s not diving. Referees need to look more closely.” Presumably then, the other two times were indeed actual dives by his own admission.

An excuse has began to fester away at the footballing establishment and has gradually been accepted as a reason for a player going down so easy; namely that Bale travels at such speed that even the slightest touch knocks him off course and brings him down. Alan Hansen even used it when trying to claim that his dive against Sunderland was indeed a penalty. It’s laughable really and it’s only used because Bale is actually an exceptional footballer when he’s not trying to con the referee. Would Emerson Boyce have been given such a ridiculous benefit of the doubt had he gone over? Or Titus Bramble for that matter? No, of course they wouldn’t, because they don’t happen to be very good or play for big, fashionable clubs.

To quote from The Laws of the Game: “A player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour if (he)…attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to be fouled.” The Sunderland foul serves as a case in point, Bale has glided past Craig Gardner at pace and beaten him, driving into the left-hand side of the box before he inexplicably tumbles at the slightest glance of an arm against his rib cage. It’s a tricky one to ponder, for he has not feigned injury as such, but with his man beaten, he is most certainly pretending to be fouled. Would he have gone over so easily anywhere else on the pitch if the reward of a penalty was not on offer? Probably not.

Sometimes players can get penalised for staying on their feet after being knocked off balance by a rough challenge or two, but that didn’t appear to be the case with Bale here; his path didn’t deviate and while surging past Gardner, neither of his feet were clipped nor did they change angle, they just appeared to collapse under the weight of expectation that was the pressure placed on the referee to make a decision. Aaron Lennon on the opposite flank is just as fast but seems to shrug off these sorts of challenges because guess what? He’s not a diver. The tag has stuck, but there’s a reason for that and being defended by David Ginola of all people will not help his cause much. Next up, Robert Pires.

Nevertheless, the flip side of that coin shows you that while the Sunderland one was a dive, not every single booking that Bale has picked up has been the correct decision, with referees obviously mindful of his reputation. Match officials are not supposed to let the media or external influences effect their decision-making, but that’s both naive and unavoidable and in some ways, the Tottenham man has become a victim of past indiscrections.

The validity of a foul is no longer the only barometer by which they are judged it seems when Bale is concerned, external influences are playing a part and all the opposition has to do now is throw their arms up in the air in mock outrage and harangue the referee to see the decision go in their favour. Plenty of careers have been ruined by the sort of filthy challenges that players like Bale have suffered in the past, and there’s something to be said for him trying to dive out of the way of them, such as the yellow he picked up against Reading. The terrible Charlie Adam challenge from last season and in pre-season this term have clearly left more mental scars than physical ones.

Bale is fast by footballing standards, but he does not run at 25mph; he is not a professional sprinter and he can’t be expected to find a way around every cynical challenge that comes his way, but the theatrical nature of his tumbles leaves a lot to be desired and distorts how we view what at times is a genuine foul on him, like the one he was booked for against Fulham.

Moreover, he has left himself in an increasingly difficult position now, does he continue to flail his limbs and arch his back at the slightest contact in the future or does he now simply take the hit? There’s a legitimate case to be made that he could get seriously hurt and his suspension has served as little more than a green light for some of the league’s nastier players to have a free-for-all.

Much like Luis Suarez and his relationship with Liverpool fans, Tottenham supporters will be delighted to have a player of the quality of Bale in their squad but embarrassed by his artful mastery of the game’s darker arts. The Welshman has the potential to be a world-class player, he’s not quite there yet, but in a year or two’s time he wouldn’t look out of place in a side like Real Madrid’s.

With manager Andre Villas-Boas going as far as to call him ‘persecuted’ in recent weeks, while there may be an element of truth to that assertion, the player hasn’t helped himself at any point this past year either and the reputation he’s garnered is entirely fair, even if the suspension itself wasn’t – straddling some sort of middle ground between avoiding contact and diving is a tricky one to quantify, and all boils down to one question – does all simulation count as diving? Only retrospective action, both awarding and rescinding cards, is the fairest future path to take.

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  • Carl
    1 year ago

    You failed to mention / notice that Craig Gardner’s knee also made contact with Bale’s leg, it wasn’t just his arm that caused him to trip. His knee clearly drives into the side of Bale’s leg.

    Reply
  • Yid
    1 year ago

    Erm, this article could have been shortened to the following;

    Title:
    ‘Should Tottenham Star stop getting clipped whilst running in excess of 20mph’

    Article:
    No

    Reply
    • Frank
      1 year ago

      Why does everyone think that Gareth Bale can run in excess of 20mph. Saw a Dwain Chambers race timed one time he ran sub-10 secs and it was something that 23 mph, saw no chance is Bale ‘in excess of 20mph’. He’s fast but dives, that’s pretty much it, plenty of other quick players don’t fall over every game at the slightest touch but nobody talks about those.

      Reply
      • Yid
        1 year ago

        He’s faster than most, is the point you’re missing – the faster you’re going – the more likely you are to fall if say, SOMEONE STICKS THEIR F**KING KNEE INTO YOUR THIGH!

        Try again

        Reply
      • Yid
        1 year ago

        ps. you may want to use a calculator to work out that if you do 100m in 11 seconds you’re running in excess of 20mph

        I rest my case thank you and goodnight

        Reply
  • fitz
    1 year ago

    Without bias, because he is a good footballer and I don’t condone feigning the foul, (surely the worst exponent of this was Droghber?), he definitely got caught against Sunderland, yet the author says he didn’t? As I understand it he has also been the victim of two career threatening injuries. Suarez has been comical, the Arsenal fella recently conned the ref v West Brom. This just appears to be vindictive?

    Reply
  • John G
    1 year ago

    I’ve got to say your comments about Bale show how you’ve written an article without any research. Until someone can prove otherwise how can you tell how much of a touch is needed for a player running at pace to go over. Furthermore in this particular case you are suggesting that it was the arm that took him down, but if you did a little research you would have seen that the defenders knee clearly makes enough contact at the back of Bales’s knee joint. Just look at the camera angle from behind. Also the last 3 times he’s been booked he has clearly been the victim of the ref making a decision based on what he perceives as opposed referring on what he actually sees. It’s also ridiculous in this case that because it was a booking he has no right of appeal although the consequence was that of a sending off.

    Reply
    • paul
      1 year ago

      Bale falls quickly. His first yellow card was justified against Aston villa in October. His second yellow card was not so,so. His last 3 yellow cards were wrong.
      But the controversy has helped Spurs as the Lennon, Sandro and Dembele have benefited to become the best midfield in the country. Bale has become the focus of the attention but Spurs has benefited and climbed up to the table to the third

      Reply
  • Kajic
    1 year ago

    If ur were caught by his knee like that you would prob be in the hospital. U should actually check the tape before writing such a stupid article.

    Reply
    • paul
      1 year ago

      The knee of the defender touched the back of the Bale’s knee. The whole episode has helped Spurs not to rely so much on Bale which is a good team for their chances this season. So many people focus on Bale there other spurs players can shine.

      Reply
  • paul
    1 year ago

    Does Bale fall quickly when he is touched ? yes. Were his first two yellow cards justified early in the season? yes. Were the last 3 yellow cards justified ? No. Is he the best player in PL? No. Suarez and Van Persie are the best players. Is Bale the best Spurs player? No. Lennon is the best Spurs player and then Sandro and Dembele. Bale is the fourth best Spurs midfeild player
    Did Spurs suffer from Bale absence ? No. He got a deserved rest.

    Reply
  • bournemouth spur
    1 year ago

    except you cant rescind yellow cards and there is no appeal process.
    Ill informed piece that i regret wasting my time reading

    Reply
    • Peter Shanders
      1 year ago

      Umm, this is awkward, learn to read the end better.

      An appeals process for yellow cards is the future and would have meant that Bale would be available for Spurs last game. There isn’t one yet, and the author doesn’t say there is.

      Reply
  • Graeme
    1 year ago

    You really have not done any research… “the other 2 were actual dives by his own admission”
    No.
    He has only received 3 yellow cards for alledged diving. The other 2 were for other fouls.
    Get your facts straight before posting articles of basically ‘rubbish’.

    Reply
  • BIG YID
    1 year ago

    Awful article. Among the many of the floors the most obvious was that 2 of his yellow cards were for other offences…. not diving.

    Reply
    • paul
      1 year ago

      Bale controversy has helped Spurs in the last few weeks. While he has become the focus of the attention of Spurs enemies. Lennon, Dembele, Parker and Sandro are becoming the most formidable line in the middle for Spurs. Let everybody to focus on Bale while we shot up the league table

      Reply
  • vtveteran
    1 year ago

    Spot on comments, guys. James McManus, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Reply
    • Gunnersauras Ted
      1 year ago

      Spot on comments? Nobody has actually disagreed with the premise that Bale is a diver but has been harshly treated at the same time. You should be ashamed of yourself, keyboard warrior.

      Loads of players in the Prem dive now, I was, to use your apt word, ‘ashamed’ of Cazorla when he did it the other week but then again if you win because of it the only people that care are fans of every other team. Defoe did a stinker of a dive the other day too, but I wouldn’t neccessarily call him a diver but Bale constantly does it and has been found out. Serves him right and all.

      Reply
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