Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Eduardo Dives into a World of Controversy.
“That sort of dive is more suited to the Olympic Pool” – Barry Davies
Only 3 weeks into the new Premier League season and already UEFA have opened a huge can of scandal by ‘victimising’ Eduardo after winning a controversial penalty against Celtic in the Champions League, or so says Eduardo’s manager Arsene Wenger. For once, neither manager has blamed the referee, as it is clear from the replays that he couldn’t have seen whether the goalkeeper and striker collided or not, and could not have seen that Eduardo had dived, and thus it would have been a miracle of a decision had he booked for simulation. Using ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL55gAHsviQ’ as evidence, it is clear from the replay starting at 0.40 that Eduardo did indeed con the referee into giving a penalty. Arsenal fans claim that Eduardo is not the type of player to dive, and argue that he might have just tripped, or that he ‘anticipated’ a challenge, a bizarre statement that I will judge further on. From the evidence in the video and the photos I fully believe that Eduardo dived; if you fall over or trip over in the street you don’t flail your arms in the air and land on the floor like a Jurgen Klinsmann celebration, followed by just standing up and not even checking to see if you’re actually hurt. It is an obvious dive, and I believe Arsenal fans will have a hard time trying to convince anyone any differently. In fact, it is such an obvious dive that even young Tom Daley might even have the incident on tape to see if he can learn anything.
Many people have argued that Eduardo was ‘anticipating’ the challenge and went down appropriately. Players do undoubtedly run into the box trying to get the goalkeeper to make a rash challenge and being brought down, but falling over before the goalkeeper or defender even gets to you just proves that the player was intending to dive anyway. If the player thought he may get hurt in the challenge then surely the first human instinct is to remove yourself from the perilous situation. Eduardo would anticipate a challenge from a centre back if he was running towards the goal with the ball, but if it had been in the middle of the opposition half I doubt he would have gone down, and instead sought out a pass or tried to take the ball around the player, or indeed have gone into a tackle with the defender, you don’t just fall down because you think he’s going to stick a leg out unless you’ve got a pre-determined idea to con the referee. For me, these ridiculous accusations like ‘anticipating’ the challenge are just futile methods of trying to defend the cheat.
Arsene Wenger is a man who I greatly respect for his views and beliefs on the way football should be played and his brilliance at building young, hungry and incredibly well structured teams. Indeed if Wenger were to be sacked from Arsenal it would be a horrid victory for the financially reckless clubs like Man City over the way Arsenal run their club. He is a man that will always stick up for his players, and even he has had to admit that he didn’t believe it was a penalty, whilst trying to fight Eduardo’s corner joining the Arsenal faithful saying Eduardo’s not that sort of player.
It is no secret that simulation has always been in the game, and that in the last few years the amount of diving, or suspected simulation has increased dramatically. In fact when watching Chelsea’s Champions League game against Barcelona last year, despite the naivety of the referee, several Chelsea fans had their head in their hands over Drogba’s obvious antics. Cristiano Ronaldo too, despite all his technical brilliance will forever be regarded as a player who cons the referee into giving silly free kicks and penalties, and we of course all remember his acting to get Wayne Rooney sent off in the last World Cup. No one likes to see diving and it is embarrassing when your team, regarded as a world class footballing outfit, are seen throwing themselves around the pitch with the smallest bit of contact.
Whilst some may argue that in sport doing anything to win, even if that means bending the rules, highlights a desperate but honourable ambition to succeed, there is much more honour in having won within the rules and unpunished cheating only leads to controversies like the one UEFA currently find themselves in.
Arsenal would have won the game anyway, but fundamentally Eduardo cheated and this is why UEFA have seized what they think is the ultimate opportunity to stamp down on simulation, and this is what has annoyed Wenger. Wenger will be asking why UEFA have chosen this incident to stamp down on diving and it is true that, as he says, UEFA have now created a huge problem in that if they fine one player for diving, they will have to start issuing out punishments to the hundreds of cases that they will find landing on their desks from every club accusing another player of simulation. From UEFA’s point of view, I can see why they have stepped in. The incident was in a high profile game shown around the world involving two well supported clubs in European football’s top competition. As the simulation was so obvious, and so influential on the game, it would make them seem like a weak authority had UEFA not stepped in on the issue. It is a signal of intent from UEFA that they are clamping down on diving, and in truth this incident is an excellent place to start as it will make headlines around the world. Seeing one player get fined may cause other players to think about attempting to con the referees, (except Eboue, who decided to leave his brains at home and dive against Man Utd on Saturday and indeed made himself look ridiculous, good on Wenger for instantly subbing him) and by treating this one case in such a dramatic manner has definitely made the football world aware that UEFA’s eyes are open on the situation. Of course, like in this case, simulation cannot always be identified by the referee and it is often considered a very bold move when a referee books a player for diving when he can’t have seen if there was contact or not. Yet I believe that football fans, including myself, are fed up of seeing such obvious antics on the pitch, and now that we have such intricate and detailed photography provided from the dozens of TV cameras in every stadium, it seems logical that when millions of TV viewers see an obvious example of simulation that it should be allowed to be reviewed by the authorities and if the player is found guilty, the player should be punished following the game.
Undoubtedly, every incident that one manager deems as being foul play will be argued over, and some managers and clubs will start abusing the privilege and accusing every silly little free kick of being simulation. This is the situation that Arsene Wenger sees arising, and it is true that UEFA will open the door to such occurrences if they fine Eduardo, and I’m not sure what UEFA could do to ensure that such mayhem doesn’t arise. However I still feel that even if the floodgates do open, after a few cases such as the Eduardo one it would definitely make players think twice about diving. Neil Warnock has proposed today that a player who gets sent off for diving, or is found to have ‘got away with it’ on the day but is proved guilty by photographic evidence, gets banned for 6 games, which I think is a good idea. However the problem UEFA will have is deciding what constitutes a dive, because often players get accused of going down too easily with minimal contact. It is also using exaggeration to con the referee, but how does UEFA judge it?
Of course Wenger will feel aggrieved, and his blasting of the referee for not booking Darren Fletcher in Arsenal’s controversial loss to Man Utd undoubtedly contains some angst from this situation, and it does appear that the dark clouds of refereeing hang over the Emirates at the moment. He’s also just lost (who I consider) the Premier League’s best player at the moment, Andrey Arshavin to injury, so he does have the right to be feeling sorry for himself, although I’m sure he’ll be feeling better when Arsenal have their best season for the last few this year (a mini prediction).
It is clear that UEFA have got to be very careful in how they deal with this situation, but it is pleasing to the football fan to see action taken against play-acting and players who attempt to make fools of everyone in the stadium. It is boring to see players continuously diving and getting away with it, it tarnishes the excitement of seeing two teams slog it out to prove they are the better team. People will always find ways to cheat, but I believe it is good to see UEFA take a stance on this issue and if Eduardo is punished, it will send shockwaves through the football world that this type of ridiculous cheating is being stamped out, and I’m all for it.