Aussie soccer will never soar if diving isn’t banned
Arsenal striker Eduardo has been banned for two matches for diving, providing hope at last for all football fans.
A Uefa disciplinary panel ruled he cheated to win a penalty in a Champions League qualifier last week against Celtic.
The punishment far outweighs the yellow card he would have received had the referee spotted his dive, and that could be argued to be unfair.
But it’s about time we claimed back our game from the cheats who go down under the slightest challenge as though picked off by a sniper.
The rot has been setting in for years and an incident in 2003 seemed to perfectly encapsulate the problem.
Robert Pires, then of Arsenal (notice a pattern?), won a penalty with a blatant dive against my team, Portsmouth.
It robbed us of a famous win in only our fifth game back in the top flight and left me fuming for days.
But probably the worst moment came after the game when our manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, admitted he wouldn’t have complained had one of his players done it.
I wanted him foaming at the mouth, vowing retribution in a style made famous at the weekend by Hawthorn’s Campbell Brown.
What I got instead was the harsh reality of modern football – with the stakes so high, cynicism rules the day.
Mountains of cash are riding on a team’s success or failure.
In Europe, qualification for the Champions League brings millions in TV revenue for clubs.
Conversely, relegation to the second tier can bring financial ruin to a club.
With that much on the line, managers are under enormous pressure to succeed – just look at the number of sackings each season.
So diving, quaintly known as ‘simulation’, has become the order of the day with managers too scared of failure to demand players stay on their feet.
Globally, this threatens the integrity of the game.
But in countries such as Australia, where other, more physical sports dominate, it also threatens the basic development of the game.
How can fans of those other sports be convinced that football is a tough, contact game when free kicks are given after absolutely no contact whatsoever?
In a positive step, the A-League introduced new rules at the start of the current season to give divers a two-match ban when the act results in a penalty or an opposition player being sent off.
The Scottish Premier League is the only other domestic competition to have such a rule.
There have been no bans so far – perhaps evidence of a deterrent at work – but it’s an important step to hopefully broaden the game’s appeal over here.
Now, I’ll admit it may be hopelessly optimistic to think that Eduardo’s suspension represents a turning point in football.
But at least it shows a willingness to address the issue.
What we need now is all domestic governing bodies to follow Scotland and Australia’s example in a bid stamp out this blight on the game.
As the suspensions mounted, and clubs lost games because they were missing their best players, perhaps we would start to see a change in approach.
The cheats can no longer be allowed to prosper.
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