The diving demons reared their ugly heads again over the weekend with Cristiano Ronaldo diving to win a penalty (which Saha scored from) and a free kick (which had no real effect).
Ronaldo has been criticised in the media for his actions, and rightly so. But thinking back on it, diving, and the more general subject of gaining an “unfair advantage” in the game raises some interesting points.
Look at it this way – we’re psychologically wired in such a way as to avoid pain first and foremost. In football, defeat = pain, but more importantly, failure = pain and for the big teams, no titles = pain as well.
Now it’s all good to say that diving is wrong, cheating is wrong, and that you should play hard and fair and always try to be positive and not negative on the pitch (trying to win instead of trying to prevent the other team from winning).
But the test of a belief system comes in crunch time – and there are few people in the Manchester United camp (if any) who would have chosen a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough over Ronaldo’s dive and penalty. It’s cheating, but when the alternative is losing honorably and letting your lead slip (and possibly the title as well), guess which argument wins out?
Losing honorably is a pretty theory, and some people may go the length to prove it right (and that too only to prove a point), but it’s murder when you put it to the test in real life.
If you give people a chance to dive and get away with it, they’ll take it more often than not.
Which is why post-match video reviews are so necessary – to review fouls and dives and to punish players who break the rules. If you don’t make cheating a heavier, more hurting loss than losing a game itself, then people will continue to cheat.