Oh, I can dive. I can soar like an eagle through the air then somersault like an acrobat. In my head, it’s Cirque du Shepherd. That this manoeuvre appears to the naked eye to be more like a drunkard belly flopping and having muscle spasms is just a matter of perception.
I know people reserve an extra special nugget of sneering hatred for soccer* players who dive. It’s unsportsmanlike, it’s cowardly and cheaty, it’s practically unorrrstrayan. Hence the rage at the game-winning penalty awarded to the Roar’s Besart Berisha on Sunday night. And yet, I must confess I dive occasionally.
Yegads, I can smell your disgust from here. My shoulders are tensed against the pounding waves of hostility, and my neck hairs are prickling. So now I will try to somewhat redeem myself.
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The laziest thing you can do in journalism is to use Wikipedia as your principal source. Sometimes, you’ve just got to break rules. Just look at the Wiki entry for Besart Berisha, who scored the winning goal for Brisbane Roar in yesterday’s A-League grand final.
It reads, and I quote: “Besart Berisha is an Albanian footballer, and an Australian renowned diver, who plays as a striker for Brisbane Roar in the Australian A-League and internationally for the Albania national football team.”
They sure got the diving bit right. Yesterday, Berisha put Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham (he of the 10m platform Beijing gold medal) to shame. The audacity of Berisha’s dive in the penalty box was matched only by the incompetence of the ref, who somehow mistook thin air as a malicious opponent in much the same way as a dog barks at its own shadow.
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Xenophobia. Pauline Hanson asked for a “please explain” over a decade ago. Here is its latest example: Australia’s indifference to the Brisbane Roar’s absurd mark of 36 consecutive matches in the A-League without defeat.
Oh yes, the excuses have come thick and fast. The record includes 13 draws, the A-League is weak, penalties were needed to win the Grand Final.
It’s as if the Roar - a team which is as majestic as it is consistent - should be embarrassed they now own such a precious jewel in our sporting history.
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