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Priorities wrong over diving – there are bigger crimes to eradicate

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To the rest of the world, Britishness is a strange concept. Perhaps it comes from the superiority of when the empire was at its height, or possibly it is a case of small-island syndrome, either way, the traditionalist attitudes on our shores have been hard to shift. Now, more than ever, it is our way or the highway.

Even when the majority of the population have voted to return to our staunch isolationism, they want it on their terms – maintaining unrestricted access to the single market. Europe, quite rightly, remains baffled by such arrogance.

Football is not immune to the such an outlook. We have our style of play, our top flight is the “best in the world” and you have to be able to cut it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke. Fans want Pep Guardiola to fail, to provide further proof these shores are unconquerable. The issue of diving, however, brings out the worst in our nationalistic stance.

Are tactics the same as trickery?

Mauricio Pochetiino dared to say, out in the open, what English managers have been telling their players in the dressing room for decades this week, and xenophobia ensued.

“Football is about trying to trick your opponent,” Pochettino said.  “When you do tactics, it is to try to trick the opponent. Twenty or thirty years ago, we all congratulated a player when he tricks the referee like this.”

The comments section on one journalist’s tweet, quoting Pochettino, does not make for pleasant reading. To summarise; diving is the scourge of “our” game, brought to our shores by foreigners whose cheating ways are spoiling the best league in the world. I’ll leave the offensive nature of some responses to your imagination.

Even though Dele Alli and Wilfried Zaha (both English) are the only two players to have been booked three times for simulation since 2015-16, it is the foreigners’ fault for teaching them how to do it.

“We don’t like it here, we don’t want to see it, and we regard it as cheating,” Alan Shearer weighed in this week, becoming the latest to express his outrage.

“As far as I’m concerned Pochettino should be ramming it down Dele Alli’s throat that he has to stop it, I want to get rid of it [diving] from our game.”

Diving should not be condoned, of course, but why such outrage? Is is really THAT detrimental to the game?

Horror tackles the real issue

Retrospective punishment has come in to help try and eradicate this downright awful aspect in our game, with several players handed two-match bans for winning penalties through simulation.

Yet, James McClean goes flying into an awful tackle on Kevin De Bruyne which, if he had connected as desired, would have snapped the Belgium international’s leg in half, isn’t mentioned again? Even the players are baffled.

“Let’s just say the ball was not in the neighbourhood,’ De Bruyne said. “The referee said to me he didn’t touch me good enough to get the red card but obviously I told him, ‘I saw the guy, I was jumping’.”

In what world is there such a clamour for Alli to be banned for falling over, but yet McClean escapes any scrutiny for trying to end the career of one of the best players the Premier League has bore witness to?

City themselves have benefitted from such leniency on fouls. Fernandinho’s stamp on West Brom’s Grzegorz Krychowiak was deemed accidental by an assessment panel, thus the Brazilian escaped retrospective action. Those who have seen it knew straight away whether that was accidental or not.

Diving is not going to ruin games, but career-ending tackles like the one on De Bruyne or on Leroy Sane against Cardiff just might. These aren’t professional fouls, both challenges could have finished a career right there and then.

“He (Guardiola) is in England, what do you expect?” Cardiff boss Neil Warnock protested after Joe Bennett was only booked for his tackle on Sane. “I suppose when you’re like that, you want everything to be nice, pretty and perfect. But you don’t get that here, you get different challenges.”

Warnock is not alone in his opinions, but such attitudes really do have to change. The Premier League is as exhilarating as ever, but to preserve that, tackles like McClean’s have to be eradicated, with lengthy retrospective bans the remedy.

Then, once players like De Bruyne don’t have to jump to ensure their career isn’t ended, can we address misdemeanors like diving, and not before.

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