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8th October 2012

by BEN HOLT

Another week of football, another week of talking points only vaguely related to kicking balls. If it isn’t John Terry, it’s Ashley Cole. If it isn’t Ashley Cole, it’s Luis Suarez. Things are starting to get a tad predictable in the controversy department. What’s that? Ashley Cole wrote something stupid on Twitter? Luis Suarez dived again? I just can’t believe it.

Yesterday was ‘Diving Sunday’. Liverpool fans may well feel aggrieved that their Uruguayan is getting more attention than Tottenham’s Welshman. Bale and Suarez were both guilty of falling to the ground rather easily (to put it mildly), but their punishment is merely a damaged reputation.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has called upon the FA to take retrospective action on divers, having witnessed the Liverpool striker fall over in the penalty area, not dissimilar to a newborn lamb trying to take its first steps.

“It’s an embarrassment. Retrospective decisions are made on the Monday by the FA. They should be looking at this. Give him three games (ban) and he’ll stop falling over”, Pulis told the BBC.

It’s not an ideal distraction for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, still looking for his first home win, as he continues to insist Suarez is unfairly treated by referees: “whatever Luis does there will always be a problem”. Unfortunately for Rodgers, this line can only be interpreted literally rather than as a suggestion that his forward is being wrongly targeted.

But let’s not forget young Gareth Bale. Last season, Manchester United’s Ashley Young received plenty of attention and Tom Daley comparisons after a string of impressive dives. Now Bale needs to literally watch his step to avoid gaining a similar reputation.

The incident involved the Wales international in a race with the Villa keeper Brad Guzan to reach a long ball. When Bale got there first, it appeared that the American had brought him down, but replays clearly showed no contact and a rather poor attempt by the winger to con the referee.

Bale has previously insisted he isn’t a diver, claiming that he is merely trying to avoid injury by leaping out of the way of challenges. Maybe if Guzan had attempted to win the ball and Bale stayed on his feet it would have resulted in a terrible injury. Maybe that’s clutching at straws.

So retrospective punishment: Pulis says yes. FA say… nothing yet it seems. And I can see why they’re not overly keen to deal with the issue.

There will always be a grey area when it comes to diving. Of course some dives are more blatant than others, but what exactly counts as simulation? If a player is clearly fouled but goes down dramatically, throwing their arms in the air, is that a dive? What about those incidents where there is contact, but only because the attacker has ‘left his leg in’? And like with Bale, what if he is actually trying to avoid serious injury? Should a player be punished for protecting themselves? Maybe players should be braver and accept the physical side of the game.

If the FA can make it clear what counts as a dive worthy of a ban, then it could be the perfect deterrent. Until then though, let’s hope the referees continue to get the big simulation decisions right.

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