Be tough on diving?

Football may be too fixated on appearing moral over diving

The National

English football needs to get off its moral high horse over diving

"You believe that in England you were honest and always perfect?"

The question could be directed at myriad instances of English football's exceptionalism, but was in fact a response from Mauricio Pochettino to its moral fixation over diving.

In a country that has in the past two weeks seen Manchester City's Leroy Sane "butchered" by a reckless tackle and West Ham United's Arthur Masuaku banned for six games for spitting, many in the English-speaking media would have you believe it is diving that is the scourge of the beautiful game, a cancer that needs cutting out, perpetrators hung, drawn and quartered.

The mob is out in force following several incidents in the 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday.

Harry Kane and Dele Alli have copped most of the ire of the morality police. Kane won the first penalty that he would go on to miss after contact from Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, while Alli was shown a yellow card for diving, or trying to "con" the referee, in football parlance.

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Does football need to be tougher on diving or get off its high horse?

By Joe Harker

If spitting is the worst crime in football, diving is probably regarded as a close second.

Players falling to the ground to trick the referee into thinking they've been fouled can win penalties that change the course of the game but can face harsh punishments if caught.

Retrospective bans are even harsher, putting a diver out of action for multiple games. There are many ways to break the rules in football but perhaps nothing more than diving provokes the same level of moral outrage.

However, there are many who believe diving should not be regarded as such a terrible crime. Diving is cheating, but many fans who criticise other team's players for diving probably wouldn't mind if a player of their club dived to win a penalty that ended up winning the game.

There are also more forms of diving than pretending to trip over when no contact has been made. Some players will fall when they feel contact or will invite contact from opponents until they can allow themselves to be tripped up. Players dive because they believe it will give their team an advantage and even the introduction of retrospective bans has not eliminated it from football. Players caught diving in the game get booked, players caught after the game get banned.

Although many in English football see diving as something foreign players introduced to the game, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes English players may now be the "masters" of diving. Even if the influx of foreign players did bring diving to English football there can be no holier than thou approach when domestic players have adopted diving wholeheartedly. Wenger said: "I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it, but the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now."

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino disagrees with that assessment, suggesting that a fixation on diving is "killing the game". He considers diving to be one of the "minimal details" that is distracting people from the game itself. He said: "Football is about trying to trick your opponent.

"Twenty years ago, thirty years ago, we all congratulated a player when he tricks the referee like this. That is the football that I was in love with when I was a child. Yes, in Argentina, but in England too. You believe that in England you were honest and always perfect?"

Diving still exists in football and there may need to be a decision over whether to toughen up punishments or let it go and accept it as part of the game.

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