Thursday, July 26, 2007


I've been hearing a lot lately about too much diving, play-acting (insert your own perjorative term here) etc, having marred the recent U-20 world cup, particularly with respect to the way the winning Argentines practiced it.

Let me court unpopularity by suggesting that most of this commentary is tosh and rests on an anglo-centric view of the game.

As I pointed out back here, there is presumably a moral difference between emphasizing that a foul has been committed and faking a foul where non has been committed. Since refs on the whole seem to interpret a player not falling over (that's a "manly" trait in the English football world) as evidence that no foul has been committed, surely players have every right to give the refs some visual cues to underline that an offence has occurred. Thus, while Rivaldo (WC 2002) clutching his face when there was no contact at all is a clear case of simulation, Thierry Henry (WC 2006) clutching his face when he has been barged by Carlos Puyol in the chest is a reasonable way of getting a call that might not otherwise have been seen.

From where I stand, few if any of the examples of Argentinian "diving" were fakes, especially in the Chile match. Tackles were flying hard and fast (the ground was quite wet in the first half) and after the Medel expulsion, the Chileans actually started tackling harder (presumably on the grounds that the ref wouldn't risk sending a second person off so soon after the first). Did the Argentinians fly higher and farther than normal physical contact might suggest was likely? Certainly? Did that result in their getting foul calls they might not otherwise have received? Probably? Does that mean the fouls didn't happen? Of course not - nearly all of them were genuine. So what's the problem?

Here, it is useful to return to one of the themes that Gianluca Vialli raised in his excellent book, The Italian Job. He contends that The English (and I would argue by extension the rest of the Anglosphere as well), despite all the commercialism surrounding professional sports, still view sports in general and football in particular in amateur terms: valuing grit, effort, and fair play. Contrarily, the Italians (and I would argue by extension pretty much all Latin countries) view football as a game. In amateur sport participation is what matters; but games, one plays to win.

(Evidence? Go check out the Spanish sporting press' coverage of Messi's Hand of God goal against Espanyol. There was plenty of condemnation of the ref for having allowed himself to be fooled, but none whatsoever for Messi himself, who was simply doing what needed to be done).

Maybe if Anglo countries celebrated the tired tropes of backs to the wall/Dunkirk/true grit/Don Cherry (Ok, different sport - but same attitude) a little less and practiced the fine arts of guile a little more they might win something once in awhile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very nice post. Completely agree on the Argentina/Chile game and emphasizing/faking a foul.

Good point on the English placing special value on grit and less on the gamesmanship aspect of football. I think the current English national team reflects that view of things; besides Rooney I don't see any glaring talent on that team but wily old veterans who play the game "the right way".

I find nothing wrong with the way South Americans or some European countries play the game, in most cases they're fighting for an advantage in a 50/50 situation.

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arsenal is crap, and clearly its wannabe cosmopolitan supporters are too, wankers who elevate irredentism to a supreme value and apologists for cheating and immorality. Perhaps this position results from watching Henry dive and whine these past years and thus needing to find some larger cultural justification for Arsenal's floppiness. We saw what Arsenal was made of when Viera tried to push around Neville in the tunnel and Keane called him out and squared up to him: Viera cravenly scrabbled away, as did Arsenal in the match and that and all subsequent seasons. Ponces.

You don't like it, but there's no way around this fact: England created football, England is football. Those who follow the ethics of British football - the British Isles, and the Scandinavians, mostly - are right and the despicable cheating ponces of the rest of the world are wrong. English ethics are football ethics, as evidenced by the yellow for diving. Were football ruled by the immoral cheats of the world, this rule would not exist. But FIFA introduced it because the Anglo ethos is the ethos of football, against which the cheaters and ponces measure themselves, against which they cheat.

As English ethics=football ethics, those who behave as ponces are wrong and the English right. QED.

Finally, for the ignorant and Anglophobic arsenalholes, to say the Coles (one left your poncey club to join the other at the greener fields of Chelsea, remember?), GERRARD, Hargreaves, Aaron Lennon, Beckham, Terry, Ferdinand, Carragher, Woodgate...well all the central defenders, really, and Owen aren't "glaring talents" says more about your dimished vision than it does about Ingerland. Not surprising from followers a club whose manager never sees vicious fouls by his own players two feet away, but froths lamely about non-fouls against his players in the far corner when his back is turned..Wenger is a running joke for blinkered in England and not so blinkered as cycloptic and seeing the world through a blue aresenalhole eyepatch.

Anyway, what can one expect from the likes of you lot: criminals and losers create excuses "my culture made me do it" to justify their conduct, honourable men win despite the antics of the dregs of society and make no excuses. Tigana made no excuses.

10:17 PM  

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