Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes became the latest critic of diving this weekend as he claimed former team-mate Darren Bent kicked him before collapsing to the ground. Gomes saved the spot kick to preserve justice in this circumstance but it’s one of many diving cases as the Premiership continues to suffer from the act of simulation. Gomes, who was the best player on show as Tottenham beat Sunderland – keeping his team ahead through a string of good saves, also criticised the controversial penalty United were given against Spurs last season when Michael Carrick went down under a challenge from the Brazilian ‘keeper.
Diving has been criticised by players, managers, fans and the media for what feels like a long time now but it continues to happen, despite the departure of serial-diver Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain – a league jam-packed with diving. The official word on diving is that a player attempting to deceive the referee is to be yellow carded and, whilst some players have been booked for diving on occasions, the majority of the time this is ignored as the referee doesn’t want to be involved in a media storm. So he either gives the penalty, like with Bent this weekend, or he just ignores the incident. So the image the referees are giving the diving players is that they will either win a penalty or nothing will happen thus they have nothing to lose – no wonder diving continues to happen! It’s time the FA played hardball with diving, enforce punishment – if the referee is too cowardly to give out a card when the incident happens then there should be an alternative – perhaps a ban given by the FA after the match for cases ruled to be diving. The prospect of having to miss a match would surely put players off diving.
The diving debate has gone on before but I will go over it once more; many Premiership fans/players/managers are more than ready to blame the current spate of diving on the influx of foreign players into the Premiership. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Pires and Didier Drogba have done nothing to dispel this idea. But English players are just as guilty of the offence – see Carrick in the aforementioned incident from last season for example. Alternatively, there are videos dedicated to the dives of Steven Gerrard on Youtube.
If the FA do pull their finger out and actually do something about diving they are going to have to be very specific as it’s a very fine line between diving and not diving. A player falling over through their own momentum without being touched by an opposition player would technically be diving by falling in the area but it would not be their fault and this would have to be put into consideration in the analysis of the incident. But something must be done, players are getting away with diving with no punishment and it is defining games and becoming even more important in the way the Premiership is going – it has to be halted quickly.
For the sake of the footballing nation this will hopefully be sorted out. And I don’t mean for the sake of defending goalkeepers, my sympathy lies with the fans of the cheated team, not goalkeepers, they are far from immune to cheating – see Jens Lehmann and his theatrics for a good example – although Gomes, a devout Catholic, seems to be one of the Premiership’s good guys (his transformation from joke ‘keeper to good ‘keeper’s been remarkable, hasn’t it?). So what kind of punishment should be dished out for diving? And who are/were the worst offenders for consistent diving? Unfortunately I think a number of Premiership players would make that list.