Diving and a culture clash

Will Quinn discusses Arjen Robben and diving culture…

There’s been an inevitable hyperbolic reaction to Arjen Robben’s comical dive last night, which apparently ‘sums all that is wrong about football in the modern era.’ A more appropriate reaction would surely have been to laugh. Robben wasn’t fooling anyone.

The footballing world should have moved beyond calls for retrospective bans after Gary Neville’s deconstruction of the topic went viral two years ago. There isn’t a lot more to be said on the subject. The only reason we’re still talking about it is because of its unique ability to make lots of British people disproportionately furious.

In this country we like our football rooted in Victorian-era notions of manliness, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s reflected in the type of football that’s played in the Premiership. As Neville pointed out, gaining a reputation for diving is often self-defeating in England. Ashley Young and Luis Suarez have both been denied nailed-on penalties this year- Young against Spurs, Suarez against Arsenal- that you have to think would surely have been given to less theatrical players. There’s still more of it than most of us would like, but a lot less than there is in Italy, Spain or South America.

It’s in European competition where we most often encounter the problem now. What’s acceptable in one country isn’t in another. When calling for UEFA to take action, we have to appreciate that other countries just don’t care as much as we do. In my experience, diving doesn’t have the same effect on Spanish or German fans. The well-known tactic of “leaving one on” small, technical players, however, is found much more offensive. The art of tackling goes horribly under-appreciated.

In England we can have football how we like it, even if we can’t logically justify why going down easily is the most heinous of all footballing crimes. But in Champion’s League games we’re left with a compromise of sorts, and the choice of referee can make a bigger difference than it ideally should. It’s frustrating, but at least the losing side is rarely short of something to complain about.

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