Diving: Oscar Performances by Soccer Players


Soccer is one of the few sports that rewards players for being blatantly cheap and fake. Take a little nick on the foot and you are allowed if not encouraged to fall as if you got shot down by an M40 sniper rifle. And then you can get up 5 seconds later as if nothing happened.

"Pictured here: soccer player fatally wounded. Not pictured: assassin samurai with a katana."
"Pictured here: soccer player fatally wounded. Not pictured: assassin samurai with a katana."


This diving phenomenon is something that is very harmful to the sport, as players are encouraged more to be sissies instead of actual competitors. It seems to me that every soccer game I watch is now decided by (questionable) penalties, and that’s become the goal (pardon the pun): get a penalty instead of, you know, earning the goal.


"A Wild Referee has appeared. The Referee uses Yellow Card. It's not very effective."
"A Wild Referee has appeared. The Referee uses Yellow Card. It's not very effective."

Why This Happens


What are the consequences for getting caught diving? A mere yellow card. That means you can try getting away with a penalty and the worst case scenario is you get a warning, meaning the striker will have to be careful with his challenges from now on to the rest of the game. Which is worthless because strikers don’t generally try to tackle down players from the other team. The yellow card becomes a simple warning that you’ve been caught diving, and that’s not nearly enough to deter players from diving again in the future.


Of course, if you manage to trick the ref by diving (which isn’t difficult), you can easily get a yellow or even a red for the other team and a free kick or a penalty for your team. In other words, the punishment for getting caught diving is less severe than the punishment the other team will receive if you get away with it. Is it really a wonder players are doing this?


Ways This Is Being Controlled


The short answer: it’s not. Diving has been a plague to soccer for at least the last decade, and it’s only gotten worse because FIFA has been doing such a half-assed job on basically everything related to soccer. FIFA doesn’t want goal line technology, video replay or anything useful in an attempt to keep the game “pure”. Or some other nonsense.


Hockey is a thousand years ahead in this aspect. It is constantly evolving and adapting with the faster speed of players and the increased chances of getting injured. There’s also a lot more support with technology and even human arbitration than in soccer.


While hockey has 2 referees for the rink, 2 linesmen and 2 goal judges, soccer has 1 referee to make calls for the entire field (which has an area 4-5 times larger than a hockey rink) as well as 2 linesmen. Hockey also has the benefit of video replay which soccer refuses to implement. When any fan watching the game through television can tell you when a bad call has been made a few seconds after it occurred and you still choose not to use video replay, then you’ve got problems.


Hockey takes this one step further: in the off chance that they do miss a call in a game, they will analyze the play and give a ban or a fine to a player in the hopes of deterring this kind of behaviour. These bans are getting stricter now as well, though they still need to work on giving more consistent bans (sometimes the same foul will get a very different number of games banned). Soccer? It doesn’t do this except when a player swears or gives a foul gesture.

"You can lie, cheat and steal as long as you don't swear."
"You can lie, cheat and steal as long as you don't swear."


Diving still occurs in hockey, though, and some really questionable calls have been made in recent years, like when San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi slashed Detroit’s Johann Franzen in the 2010 playoffs and Franzen got the penalty. Even so, they’re a rarity and clearly hockey is trying to keep them to a minimum. Human error is inevitable, but so much easier to prevent and correct when you have video footage of the incident.


Soccer’s philosophy is almost completely backwards in this sense because FIFA wants to keep human error as a way of creating an outcome for the game. Some speculate this is to allow games to be fixed or gambling to occur, but whether the reason is money or sheer stupidity is beside the point. They’re ruining the game by stopping its advancement and preventing it from adapting to modern times.


Even though soccer is my favourite sport, I have to concede that hockey is a lot more entertaining to watch simply because it keeps evolving, maintaining its integrity while keeping it competitive and dynamic. Meanwhile, soccer is stuck in the dark ages.

How to Fix This

It can’t be completely corrected, but infringements like diving can be kept to a minimum with simple things like video replay, adding another referee, and actually punishing these divers.


A general concern is that the video replay will take too much time to resolve the issue. Most of the time this is not the case.


When watching the 2010 World Cup, it was pretty clear that Lampard had scored against Germany and that the first goal in Argentina vs. Mexico was offside. We knew this immediately after the fact (in fact some of the Mexican players were complaining to the referee as they watched the replay on the stadium’s big screen – before the Argentinian players had even finished celebrating).


In hockey most video replays are resolved in less than 2 minutes, though some can take up to 10. Even so, there are many things that take up a lot of time in soccer: celebrations, questioning calls, scrums and diving itself (and by diving I mean diving, pretending to be injured, getting dramatically carried off on a stretcher and then returning a few minutes later – this eats up a lot of time).


You can easily resolve this and do what most sports do: stop time when the play is not continuing. It’s really simple: get a stopwatch


"This is all we need to solve this dilemma."
"This is all we need to solve this dilemma."

If the ball goes out of play, stop time. When it goes back in play, start it again. If there’s a foul, stop time and be wary if the players try to do a quick free kick, because then you’ll need to start it again. That’s about as complicated as it gets


Oh and sometimes a play may have to be restarted because the ref sees an infringement. If that happens, simply go back to the time that it was at previously. Anyone with a computer or smartphone can do that. It’s not hard. It may change the dynamics of the game a bit too as players rush and give their all as it nears 90, but is that a bad thing?


You could also just keep playing until the ball gets knocked out of play or in no man’s land after the 90, like we currently do, but at least stop time from ticking when someone is just fetching the ball. Like why is that even a deciding factor? Seriously.


Parting Thoughts


Many people (mostly Americans) complain that soccer isn’t a manly sport and football is much better. To them I say, why do you call it football when 90% of the time you’re running around with the ball in your hands? As for manly, well I guess they’re right. I mean American football is a sport where you are excused for grabbing other large, sweaty men in areas unknown and jumping on top of each other all for a ball (or balls). You can’t get manlier than that.


Despite their ignorance they do have a hint of truth behind their statements. Soccer is lacking in competitiveness and integrity because of the way FIFA is dealing with divers and how they refuse to include technology in the game. It’s turning soccer from the beautiful game into a complete joke.


Let’s hope it doesn’t stay that way.


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Comments 8 comments

SpiffyD profile image

SpiffyD 5 years ago from The Caribbean

This was an insightful hub. FIFA President Sepp Blatter really comes up with some gems and it seems as though FIFA wants to retain the human element - mistakes by match officials and all.

Diving is a scourge indeed. I think it would be difficult to ask for more than a caution for that unsporting behaviour though. Many referees do not call fouls when contact is not signficant in their opinion. Most times a referee gets conned, he is either too far from play or unsighted. However, more needs to be done about this - technology or additional punitive measures might be the way to go.


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks Spiffy. Did you hear that Blatter was re-elected again? I doubt we'll see progress in implementing technology in the near future.

I agree in saying that sort of unsporting behaviour should merit only a caution in normal circumstances because it doesn't do any physical harm to another player. But the problem is that the benefits of diving (earning a penalty/free kick, getting the other team a yellow/red) outweigh the punishments (getting cautioned). Players are realizing this and are taking advantage.

Since this specific behaviour is occurring more and more often, I'd say that there needs to be a bigger punishment and it needs to be more enforced to offset it.

For instance, in hockey headshots have been more and more prevalent in the past few years, resulting in more injuries and concussions. Because of this, the NHL began looking to change the rules or perhaps be more strict on headshots. General managers, players and the NHL board all had their say in balancing the competitive aspect of the game with the players' safety.


SpiffyD profile image

SpiffyD 5 years ago from The Caribbean

As a referee, I actually like the idea of players getting sent off for diving. Perhaps the automatic one-match suspension is not bound to follow if a player is sent off for diving. However, while it sounds nice, I feel referees might be conned into thinking a player dived when he didn't...lol.

The best option might be reviewing video evidence and slapping the player with a 10-match suspension or something. That's harsh...but I think it would be a useful punishment.

I'm sure you remember the Luis Suarez incident in the Uruguay v Ghana World Cup match. I think this discussion is similar to that. Suarez got sent off and missed the next game, but his action unfairly gave his side a chance when a sure goal would have resulted. I remember one person suggested that the goal should have been awarded. However, that means that FIFA would have to use technology to verify that the ball was heading into goal. That would be controversial, especially if the defending team could argue that the ball could have been legitimately stopped. But wait...I said technology. As you pointed out - Blatter is back. So scrap that idea.

It's an interesting discussion though. The way I call a game, I allow minimal contact. So if a player wants to dive, he might not get a call from me because I don't call minor fouls easily. However, there are times when the referee is unsighted for various reasons and it might appear to be a foul. This issue is beyond having good referees. However, I think the IFAB and FIFA would only act if it is overdone - reactive again.


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada Author

All good suggestions, and I agree. We certainly don't want to get the wrong call, and at the same time we want to make sure that we do make the call when a misconduct happens.

With that said, video replay during the match can be a very important supplement to the referees. When a play can't be 100% verified from the referee's point of view, another arbitrator(s) reviewing the videos from many angles can come to a conclusion. If it's still debatable (which many calls are) then play goes on, but if there's a clear attempt to foul or dive then the referee can be notified and provide the appropriate punishment (kind of like how linesmen can notify the referee when a play happens and he didn't see it).

Of course a lot of experimentation needs to happen for that to work. But at the very least, reviewing plays after the game and providing the proper discipline should be done, like you suggested.

I remember it now that you brought it up. I just watched the play and I think that the ball was clearly going into the net. If it isn't 100% sure that the ball was heading into the net, then I would just award the penalty. In this case though, the goal should have been allowed. The defending team can argue all they want that the ball could have been stopped, maybe by a diving kick or a header or the goalie frantically making a last minute save, but these "what ifs" should be forfeited because your player deflected the ball with his hands as it was going in. If he didn't, then one of the "what ifs" could have happened, but instead he blocked the ball with his hands and we can only assume that the ball was going to go in.

I'm glad you allow minimal contact. I think it's necessary to give some sort of physical battling for the ball, otherwise we'll be calling a foul every other play.

That brings to mind another point - embellishment of any sort should not be allowed. In most fouls, even ones where physical contact has been made and the player has to fall down, the player exaggerates the fall and rolls, grasping his leg in pain. This usually sells the foul and can grant more punishment to the other team than necessary.

"A 2008 study found that there are recognizable traits that can often be observed when a player is diving. They 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 (the player nurses a body part other than where the impact occurred, such as contact to the chest causing the player to fly to the ground, holding his face).

In addition the "Archers bow" (aka the "Baggio Special") pose (where the head is tilted back, chest thrust forward, arms raised and both legs bent at the knee to lift both feet off the ground to the rear) is recognised as a characteristic sign of simulation, as the action is counter to normal reflex mechanisms to protect the body in a fall."

We have to take steps to be able to accurately differentiate between a dive and a legitimate fall or tackle. I'm pretty sure I heard a news story that a player was having a stroke and the referee gave him a yellow card because he thought he was diving.


SpiffyD profile image

SpiffyD 5 years ago from The Caribbean

You know, you could create a hub with that bit of information you posted there. Embellishment is a real problem too, because the contact is made...but the player made the most of it. I remember a referee telling me that if a player who was kicked had fallen, he would have given a penalty. Of course, he didn't give the penalty because the player stayed on his feet and tried to get the ball around the diving keeper. I actually thought that was a strange thing - especially as I heard the teammates of the player telling him that he should have fallen to get the penalty. Having a colleague actually tell me that a fall is the difference between a penalty and "play on" was very interesting to say the least. That's like saying that it's only a foul if a player falls. It's that sort of thinking that encourages players to dive and embellish fouls. They actually think the ref would call a foul only if they hit the turf with a thud.


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada Author

I find it odd myself - the player should attempt to keep the play going but had he fallen he would have earned a penalty. It completely changes the dynamics of the game (and probably not for the better).


Ogar monday 5 years ago from Awka,Nigeria

Didier Drogba is the worlds greatest diver and he has never been booked even once for it.

Am watching the brazil vs holland game and the paraguan ref have given out two yellow cards for diving.


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada Author

He does get away with it a lot doesn't he Ogar?

It's good to hear the ref gave out two yellow cards for diving and it should stop them from diving for the rest of the game, but sadly I don't think that's enough to deter these players from diving in future games.

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