This week we take a look at the situation of gamesmanship and simulation in the game
It is the final minute of the playoff final at Wembley in the 2012-13 season. Watford are drawing 1-1 against Cardiff City and a player dives to win a last minute penalty to gain our side promotion! Happy?
This week at Vital Watford I am going to examine the difficult topic of gamesmanship, diving and how and when players cross the line between cuteness and cheating.
It is a difficult question to debate as a fan about what the line should be between being clever and breaking the rules. After all, if our team wins a game because a player has dived for a penalty do the majority of fans care? I would like to think that they would and that they would be strong enough to look past how their team has benefited from such play and condemn that act itself.
We have seen many examples to illustrate the fine line between gamesmanship and cheating in recent weeks. Danny Welbeck has been guilty twice in recent times of going over easily; once against Ukraine whilst playing for England and again for Manchester United in a match against Wigan.
We have also seen Luis Suarez, a player with a reputation for simulation denied penalties in two consecutive weeks, perhaps for nothing else other than his over theatrical falls. We also saw a poor display of diving from various Chelsea players during the weekend`s game against Stoke.
So, given that I would hope all fans would put aside club loyalties when looking at this situation, it is interesting to see where anyone would draw the line. Is it ok for a player to ‘leave his leg` hanging after taking the ball past a defender and wait for contact before going down? On one hand the player has conned the defender into touching him by making an unnatural action, however on the other hand, a player can behave how he wants within the laws of the game and if a players leaves his foot it is up to the defender to get out of the way.
Another interesting scenario is one similar to the situation at Old Trafford when Welbeck went over Ali Al-Habsi. If a player is coming towards an opponent at speed in the box does there need to be contact for a penalty to be given? The rules of the game state that a foul can be awarded if a player makes intent to foul an opponent. If a player sees an opponent coming towards him at speed should there need to be contact, at risk of injuring the player, for there to be a penalty?
I think there is one case though, that all fans can agree goes beyond gamesmanship and is clear simulation and that is what we saw from Chelsea against Stoke on Saturday. Particularly in Branislav Ivanovic`s case, where clearly no contact was made, nor was he avoiding injury by hurdling a challenge, but just throwing himself down theatrically to try and trick the referee into awarding a penalty. This is clearly beyond the bounds of gamesmanship.
Beyond the obvious examples of diving, the question is really open ended for each individual fan as to what is acceptable to win a penalty and what isn`t. It is all about interpretation.
I would add some final thoughts though, in saying that along the lines of an argument used on many occasion by Sam Allardyce, players often have to go down if officials are likely to spot any contact. Penalty areas are so congested often that little trips go unnoticed unless a player makes a big deal out of it. Often players cannot win penalties when they are tripped in the box if they shrug it off and continue playing. However this begs a final question, which will be left for you to discuss. Is any contact in the box a penalty, or if a player can stay on his feet after a challenge, then the tackle clearly not strong enough to prevent him from continuing, should they despite probably not getting the decision of a spot kick?
Remember to tell us what you think by commenting below!