The soccer “Dive” has become rather infamous in the football world. Many media outlets, critics, and fans alike view the act of diving as a sort of sacrilege to the game. Which is why, for a long time, I held the belief that pretty much everyone in the world hated soccer dives. That was until I stumbled upon the article on Slate titled, ” Why Diving Makes Soccer Great.” (1) Now, it is possible that the author, Austin Kelly, is playing devils advocate; but for the sake of argument I choose to assume that I stumbled upon the sole person in the world that actually enjoys soccer dives.
The base line for his argument has been brought up many times before and equates to the notion that diving is a skill. A sort of art form if you will. Specifically Kelly argues that, “Diving is like drawing a charge in basketball. When it is done well, it is a subtle (and precarious) art.” The argument is simply enough but its also bereft of any coherence. A charge in basketball is a fundamental foul call, diving in soccer is an attempt to get a foul call when none such foul was committed. Furthermore, a charge is drawn by a defender when an attacker is charging the goal too aggressively. On the other hand, A dive is done by an offensive player when they are frustrated because they cannot get by an opposing defender.
Clearly, I don’t agree with Kelly, but that’s the thing about opinions, everyone is entitled to them. Sure, good deception is a skill and the perfect dive is an art. In the same way that knowing how to pick a safe is a skill and pulling of the perfect bank robbery is an art but that doesn’t it make it good for the banking industry.
No matter what side of the fence your on, The diving “epidemic” has become a hot bed of conversation, especially with the upcoming 2014 World Cup. Sure some people argue( but probably only Kelly) that its good for the game, but most critics agree that it has become a problem in professional soccer. It has gained a special notoriety in the media as a laughing point in soccer but (finally) some federations are now attempting to take it more seriously.
Surprisingly, the MLS has become one of the first professional soccer leagues to address the problem head-on. In 2011, the MLS dealt their first fine for an illegal dive. The MLS handed Charlie Davies, a D.C. United Forward, a $1,000 fine for a dive that they believed altered the result of D.C. United’s game against Real Salt Lake (2). Since this first fine in 2011, the MLS has handed out multiple other diving related fines. However, the MLS is one of the only professional soccer organization in the world that is handing out retroactive punishments for illegal dives.
In the birthplace of football, The EPL, seems to have a much more lenient strategy. In a recent interview about Ashley Cole’s blatant dive against Crystal Palace, EPL spokesman Phil Dorward gave a groundbreaking statement; ” If a player is continually booked for diving, and it becomes a problem, we’ll visit the club and talk the player through what is a dive and what isn’t.” (3) Right Phil, because that’s the problem, Ashley Cole simply cant distinguish between what is a dive and what is not a dive. Brilliant.
Granted, perhaps fines are not the cure all to the diving epidemic but at least they are a start. Certainly, the EPL can’t think the catalyst for diving is education or the lack there of. A professional soccer player knows an illegal dive just as well as he knows the offside rule. The players are using the dive because it offers them an opportunity to win, and the only way to counter this is to somehow convince them that diving is not worth it. This could be done via fines, However, we have seen that in the NFL and NBA fines only work to a certain extent.It could also be done via suspensions, but then again suspensions have only stopped a handful of MLB players from taking steroids.
So while the answer to stopping the diving epidemic is unclear, it is clear that the EPL and other prestigious soccer organizations need to start doing something about it. Whatever it may be, fines or suspensions, it is sure to be more effective than an educational sit down.