This season has seen the spotlight cast down upon the issue of diving perhaps greater than ever before, with the concept in some people’s eyes appearing to convincingly bed itself into the fundamentals of the English game.
Long term tradition and value allocates English football an image synonymous with ‘no nonsense, hard but fair’ sporting competition. Nevertheless, in recent years this view can confidently be said to have changed, or at least seen its course altered by the ever growing influence of wider European football.
Just like the English Premier League (EPL), football on the continent within the various respective top-flight leagues, has seen a progressive shift in all elements of the game itself; an overbearing component of this that simply cannot be overlooked is diving. Stereotypically viewed as an unwelcome export from the misdemeanours of La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, diving, or to be attributed its correct term, ‘simulation’, is now debatably a prevalent issue on a weekly basis within English football.
The outcry of the ‘simulation’ debacle was considerably promoted this season when it became public knowledge that Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj became the second, all-time most booked player for attempting to dive in order to win the referee’s decision. The enormity of this however can be placed in perspective when one considers that Januzaj, (18) was only a mere 14 appearances into his Manchester United career before this highly undesirable record was ‘achieved’, so to speak.
After breaking through onto the scene in extraordinary fashion, for arguably one of the greatest teams in Europe, Januzaj still stands as one of the hottest prospects in world football right now, an exquisitely skilful winger and certainly a joy to behold. Nevertheless, it is undeniably true that in the world of football mud sticks, and once a player becomes tarnished with the label of ‘diver’, the wider connotations are notoriously hard to shake off.
All this begs the question therefore, is diving or ‘simulation’ taken seriously within the English game? The fact that players are now receiving yellow cards for such an act and that the guidelines on dictating what constitutes as ‘simulation’, suggests yes; however collectively, in the grand scale of things, it must be said diving is simply not taken seriously enough.
With so many penalties being awarded in top flight football, bringing with them an aftermath of debating furore, it must be adjourned that the seriousness of diving simply isn’t handled with the highest degree of care; particularly as the awarding of a penalty could sway a tie in a certain way, potentially making or breaking a certain teams season.
A more pressing factor of this whole debate however, is the impact diving is having upon the younger generations of English football, those picking up the gauntlet cast down by the icons of present day. It goes without saying that the vast majority of English Premier League footballers are role models for thousands of adoring fans, representing to them what it means to be to have reached the pinnacle of the sport they love.
Adnan Januzaj, as aforementioned, is touted to become one of ‘the’ next big names of the premier league; a player who will undoubtedly amass a large quantity of idolising fans on his journey to become a Manchester United great. It would be a travesty therefore for a player of this calibre to continue his diving exploits in search of wrongly winning the official’s decisions, and thus have a huge fan-base seek to emulate this method of play as a result.
Diving certainly needs to be tackled with a much stronger degree of assertion if this new-found, supposedly European influence, is to be eradicated. There is no place for simulation in English football, just as there never has been. The English game prides itself upon being crafted from fine sportsmanship and exhilarating competition, a culmination of which makes the EPL one of the most covered sporting competitions on a global scale. To make a stance against diving would simply serve to retain this status and continue the prestige and longevity of one of the finest leagues in world football.