The issue of diving is one that has dominated football discussion for as long as I can remember. There was Eduardo’s flop against Celtic, Krasic’s ban and Ronaldo’s antics against Bolton, all events that added fuel to the fire of football’s growing anti-diving sect.
In Major League Soccer last weekend, diving once again raced to the forefront of fans’ minds, as Charlie Davies’ late flop earned DC United a game changing penalty away at Real Salt Lake. Remarkably, that was the second occasion this season that Davies had dived to win a penalty, with the American striker also guilty of simulation in a match against LA.
With Davies replying to RSL defender Chris Wingert’s finger pointing and accusations with the words, “that’s football,” talk turned to a potential punishment, a way to scare off “cheaters like Davies who ruin the game.” However, those who criticize Davies fail to realize that what the striker did was no different than what defenders like Chris Wingert do on a weekly basis, foul. Every time a defender races away from the scene of a crime with his hands held in the air, cheating is occurring, the same cheating that has made Charlie Davies the target of this ridiculous witch hunt.
Yesterday, Charlie Davies was issued a fine as punishment for his actions, with the league claiming that Davies “intentionally deceived the officials.” There is no doubt that the accusation is correct, but until the league begins to fine all those players who seem almost permanently prone in that ridiculous posture of innocence, the punishment is unfair. There is nothing wrong with fining a player for cheating, but if such a punishment is instituted, then all cheating must be sanctioned, not just that which had a direct influence on the result of a game.
For all those RSL fans who are still prattling along about their disgust for Davies’ actions, perhaps a reflection on your own team should be had. Real Salt Lake are not a team anymore guilty of cheating then the next one, but there still does lurk a deceptive quality within their ranks. Players like Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave frequently have their hands, wrapped all over opposition strikers, only to let go and leave their arms hanging, high in the air when the referee turns around. Such forms of petty cheating are conceived with the full intent of tricking the referee, yet they are not frowned upon as much as others.
Yes, diving is a type of cheating which more commonly effects the outcome of a game, but if cheating is what the public are angry about, then the outcome of the deceptive action should not be a concern. Referees are tricked just as much when a holding midfielder feigns innocence after aiming crass intimidation tactics at the opposition’s playmaker, as they are when that very playmaker dives to win a penalty.
All cheating, no matter the end result, is in essence the same and deserves the same treatment. I was angry when I saw what Davies did to earn his team a result away at Real Salt Lake, but I was still angrier when I heard of his punishment. A 1000$ fine is by no means enormous, but the fact that punishment is being handed out for an act of trickery, sets a precedent that will be impossible to maintain. Every defender, caught on camera committing a brazenly obvious foul, yet failing to inform the referee of his wrong doing would have to be punished, a ridiculously time consuming venture, but one that would have to be made for Charlie Davies’ treatment to be considered fair.
Diving is not something to be encouraged, but it simply cannot be punished if other forms of cheating are not equally dealt with. So, for now, we’ll just have to put up with players like Charlie Davies, and hope that someday a player’s conscious dictates their actions, overriding their desire for victory.