Last week Milos Krasic was banned by the Italian football league for two games because he was retrospectively, through video technology, shown to have dived in winning a penalty for Juventus against Bologna. The dive can be seen in all its glory below.
This is not the first time that Italian football officials have used video replays to prosecute perceived divers. Ivica Iliev, Adriano and Marcelo Zalayeta have all been targeted after tumbles in the box, although the latter was cleared after some alternative footage from a local television station emerged.
Although I certainly do not like or condone diving, I do have some problems with the dishing out of bans for such offences, on a number of different grounds.
Firstly, a player who is judged to have dived by the referee will receive a yellow card for each offence; whereas if later charged by the officials he will be subject to a ban more akin to a sending off. This cannot be fair. It does have the effect, though, of punishing the more skillful divers more harshly than the obvious ones. An interesting concept, although I’m not sure one the Italian football league intended.
Secondly, diving is hard to measure. A 2008 study from the University of Portsmouth found there are specific traits that are likely to be observed when a player is involved in simulation. These are:
“a separation in time between the impact and the simulation, a lack of ballistic continuity (the player moves further than would be expected from the momentum of the tackle) and lack of contact consistency (where the player nurses a body part other than where the impact occurred).”
Despite this objectivity, obtaining a consensus view on specific incident remains tricky, as countless of you will testify from conversations in the pub. It requires very little contact to dislodge a small player who is running and turning at full speed and sometimes stumbles and tiny trips can look very much like a dive.
My biggest objection to subsequent bans for diving, however, is the precedent it sets and the lack of consistency with other forms of cheating on the field.
Players trying to con the referee on the football field is not just restricted to attackers diving. There is not a throw-in these days without both contesting players appealing that it came off the other player last, even when its patently obvious that it didn’t. This is also trying to cheat the officials into deciding in your favour. That sort of cheating seems to be acceptable.
Perhaps the answer is that diving influences important game-changing moments – usually the provision of a penalty – and so stamping out that sort of behaviour is more crucial. However, defenders are also involved in trying to cheat the correct outcome in these ‘big’ moments too. After clattering a marauding wingers legs, hands will go up in shock that the attacker has gone sprawling and they will often be visibly incensed that the player could dare to go down in the box. A good example of this is when Vincent Kompany clumsily took out Cesc Fabregas (video attached) in the box a couple of weekends ago. Although the correct decision was given by the referee, countless others have been taken in by the innocent looking defenders. For me that is no different to diving.
The Italian football association has a difficult task on its hands to try to cut out diving on the football field but I fear that without being open and fair about its methods that it is liable to make the situation worse.