Manchester United won their match against Wigan on the weekend in spite of another disappointing diving incident during the game. Maybe it was best that United turned over their visitors on the day anyway, saving us from really questioning the effects of a penalty that should never have been. In another fortunate outcome, goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi saved the resulting penalty from Javier Hernandez, but it still doesn’t make Danny Welbeck’s dive ok.
I, like many I’m sure, questioned Al-Habsi’s goalkeeping decision to rush out and face the oncoming Welbeck in the United penalty area. The England forward wasn’t really going to do anything threatening considering his position in the box and the lack of great support. But it’s just another shameful diving display that from a United player that should have been put to rest last season.
Ashley Young conned that referee in two consecutive games last season, winning two penalties and subsequently two goals. He was rightly brought into the public attention for obvious cheating, something which saw Alex Ferguson point out and claim that the player needed a word in private. Considering those two weeks last season, why would another Manchester United player bring to light this dark side of the game again?
FourFourTwo ran an interesting piece in their magazine a few months ago which stated that diving is only a real problem in English football, predominantly because of the culture here and abroad. In foreign countries, whether it be in Spain or one of the South American nations, diving is seen is a normal part of the game. Players use this art of deceit to get the upper hand against teams who are noticeably stronger and to help swing the match in their favour. Quite plainly, diving is widely accepted.
But that’s abroad, and that’s part of the make up of an entirely different league with differing views of the game. In England, it’s completely right to shame the players who commit such acts of cheating. But the problem in England is that there seems to be one rule for one group of players and another rule for others; something which all boils down to the nationality of the player going to ground.
The treatment of former Arsenal striker Eduardo was bordering on the disgusting and more than embarrassing. Yes, it was wrong what he did and he should have been made aware of it. But the reaction was unbelievable. Celtic were said to be cheated out of a place in the Champions League despite scoring one goal to Arsenal’s four over two legs, not including the penalty following the Eduardo incident. The media and pundits couldn’t wait to get their hands on the Arsenal forward, who had just returned from something far more horrific in that leg break away at Birmingham. But those who were looking to call out Eduardo did so without ever letting go of the incident. It was wrong, but the real shame is the lack of equal attention given to those who do exactly the same thing.
I found another embarrassing moment in English football when Steven Gerrard said a few years ago that diving is a foreign thing and that English players don’t do it. Well, he’s half right. But England’s finest, including Gerrard, have added the dive to their locker of tricks. The Liverpool captain, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, among quite a few more, have played a hand in staining the English game; not the global brand of the game, but what England wants it’s game to be.
And that’s where the problem is and why it’s so casually brushed under the carpet. Roberto Martinez has spoken out about Welbeck’s dive in the game at Old Trafford, but that’s one voice in a very small group. Welbeck is English, a United player, one of Alex Ferguson’s, a goal scorer for England at senior level, and so on and so on. It doesn’t make it ok and it certainly isn’t reason enough to ignore the situation.
It’s quite plain that many in England do not approve of diving, otherwise why would it be brought up so often? But some form of action needs to be taken to keep players from conning their way to victory. Of course, there’s a fine line between fair punishment and opening up a can of worms, but it’s about time the FA did something positive with their time.
As has been mentioned, Welbeck is playing at the very highest level for club and country. Manchester United would have beaten Wigan regardless of the penalty incident, so why do players resort to those measures? I’m not buying the recent argument by Gareth Bale where he said he dives to avoid getting hurt. I get it, but two wrongs and all that. Let football’s governing bodies ensure that reckless tackles, such as what Bale mentions, are taken out of the game. After that there is surely no reason to go to ground other than to get the upper hand unfairly.
There is certainly no moral high ground because every team has been guilty of diving in the past. But English football culture doesn’t want it or need it. Other nations use it on their own ways in the game, but we clearly look down on that sort of obvious cheating. It’s an ugly side of the game that needs stamping out before another aggressive incident such as the Eduardo saga happens again. Unfortunately, blind eyes from those in positions of power will continue to be turned for those who wear three lions on their shirt.