When is a dive not a dive?

Kevin Thomson is fit for Rangers’ UEFA Cup tie against Sporting Lisbon. I am so relieved because I thought he might be seriously injured. He took an awful clattering from Celtic’s Georgios Samaras when he deliberately moved his leg to the side so that he could make minimal contact with the Celtic player before throwing himself to the ground.

In my non-expert opinion that incident was as clear a dive as you will ever see. I feel that the injury and the carrying off were simply to divert attention away from what he did.

Thomson understandably reacts angrily to a suggestion such as this:

“To call me a cheat and a diver is outrageous because that kind of thing is just not in my nature,” Thomson told the Daily Record.

“I’ve had a look at the incident again on TV and I can see why people are saying I was trying to win a foul. But that’s not cheating. I had beaten Samaras with my first touch and I knew he was going to make contact with me. What was I supposed to do – jump out of his way?” he asked.

“If a striker is going through on a keeper and he knows he’s going to get hit does he try to jump out of it or does he wait for the contact? That’s not cheating or diving, that’s just part of football. So I’d be very disappointed if people levelled those kind of accusations at me. I play the game with my heart on my sleeve – I’m not a con artist.”

There is a whole debate to be had on whether you agree with Thomson’s definition of cheating or not. Maybe it would be nice if players who could avoid contact did avoid it and then try to score a goal. There is a strong argument against that and the argument was supported when referee Steve Bennett didn’t award a penalty to Manchester United when Rooney was clearly fouled by Carragher in the Liverpool game at Old Trafford, presumably because he stayed on his feet.

This is where my problem lies. The Scottish FA has said that they are going to eradicate simulation from the game. They are going to use video technology to retrospectively punish any player who is found to have ‘dived’. They are pushing UEFA to follow suit across Europe.

I have sympathy with this standpoint as I’m sure all football lovers would do, but in practice I simply don’t see how it will work.

Did Kevin Thomson dive on Saturday or not? I say he did but I’m sure that millions of football fans would disagree as well millions who would share my opinion. He went to ground because he was tripped, but he deliberately moved his leg in order that contact could be made. He did appear to be going down before he made that contact.

Dive or not?

Take the Wayne Rooney situation when he was tripped by Carragher. If he had gone to ground it would clearly have been a dive as he proved that he could avoid doing so. However, he was fouled. So if he had thrown himself to the ground would that have been simulation?

How would the authorities define ‘a dive’? In both of the cases I have mentioned it would appear that the player could have avoided going down, but contact, and therefore a foul, was committed. Simulation is defined as; ‘The act or process of simulating’. ‘An imitation; a sham’.’ Assumption of a false appearance.’ So falling over when you don’t have to seems to fit the bill.

I would still ask if Thomson did, or Rooney would have done, anything wrong by making the contact obvious to the referee.

Then we come onto everybody’s favourite subject of the moment. Cristiano Ronaldo. What a fantastic player this boy is. He is as good as anyone I have ever seen play the game but he is far from universally admired. Why is that? Because of his propensity to fall over fairly regularly in a game when he is breathed on by an opponent.

That is what most fans, other than Manchester United die hards, think. He certainly does seem to topple over fairly frequently I will admit. As a non-Manchester United supporter I have been occasionally heard to shout, “Get up you cheat,” at the television.

Again though, I would ask is Ronaldo actually diving or is he responding in a manner that simply makes the fact that he has been fouled obvious? Ronaldo arguably runs faster with the ball than any player in the world. Add to that the fact that his feet are as quick and tricky as any player in the world and you have a bit of a nightmare to defend against. If Ronaldo is running with the ball at full pace alongside a defender and he goes down I defy anybody to say categorically whether he was touched or not, and I don’t care how many camera angles there are.

If Ronaldo is even lightly touched it may well be enough to affect his balance and lead to him falling. I simply don’t know as even when at my peak in the Salisbury and District Sunday League I never quite had the pace of the Portuguese winger.

We all watch the incidents and some of them are very obvious. I remember Senderos taking a dive at Birmingham a few weeks ago. Not even the staunchest Gooner could have thought there was any contact. It was a good example as to why defenders should not attempt to join in this craze.

However, in a vast majority of cases it is not possible to be certain as to what actually definitively happened.

We must remember that by calling a dive we are calling the player a cheat. There is not much worse a player could be called. If we get it wrong that is a terrible slur on that player’s character. At the start of this article I declared that I think Kevin Thomson is a cheat. If he isn’t then what gives me the right to say it?

Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan. Article originally written for Soccer News.

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