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Diving is the least of football's problems

By Bradley King



If planet Earth was visited by sport-loving aliens tomorrow, keen to expand on their own galactic games by learning those of humans, how would we introduce them to the game of football? How could we use a microcosm to explain the evolution of the beautiful game, leading to what it has become today? The positives apart, an excellent personification of the problems in modern football would be Liverpool's Luis Suarez.

The tricky forward seems to be back page tabloid news on the majority of weekends, for a wide variety of reasons. We could use these cuttings to explain about the dark side of football. Now, gather round galactic beings.

We could start with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Suarez's nation, Uruguay, enjoyed a fabulous competition and soon made their way to the last eight where they faced Ghana - Africa's last remaining competitors in the continent's first ever tournament as hosts. After a 1-1 draw, the clash went into extra time and, at the end of the extra 30 minutes, the Ghanaians should have won it.

Dominic Adiyah's header was about to send not only a country or a continent, but an entire planet of neutrals into hysterics - but Suarez had other ideas, palming the ball away from the goal, illegally. Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty kick and Uruguay eventually won the shootout. Sportsmanship has little bearing in our game, aliens. Labelled a cheat, Suarez showed no shame, telling reporters after the game: "I made the save of the tournament."

We could then talk about his remuneration in exchange for playing football. Suarez signed for Liverpool in 2011 and was initially paid £40,000-a-week. That lavish contract was upgraded to £120,000-a-week at the beginning of the 2012/13 Premier League season - around 240,000 times as much as the supporters that pay to watch him each week.

And those fans who filter through the turnstiles at Anfield - some of whom will be doctors or teachers on good pay and others who are manual labourers or office assistants on minimum wage - spend at least £50 each week on watching these superstars play. A hefty whack, indeed. We could also point the galactic beings to Arsenal Football Club, who price their cheapest season ticket at just shy of a thousand pounds.

But we could save the best for last. These aliens - who are, of course, living in complete harmony with one another on their home planet - will be stunned to hear that football harbours, and even magnifies, the problems of discrimination within society. Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra during a match and was given a £40,000 fine - equivalent to a week's wages for someone in a normal occupation when, almost without exception, in a non-football job the individual would be suspended from his position, at least.

We could also speak of John Terry, England's great lion, who feels it appropriate to utter racially-motivated insults on a football pitch. Or of world football's governing body FIFA, who are yet to front an anti-homophobia campaign.  

All of these issues are problems with the modern game. They truly have the potential to drive fans away from the sport.

Then we would mention the concept of diving to the aliens, and how Luis Suarez is complicit in it. And they would roll their eyes in unison at the trivialisation.

And so for Everton manager David Moyes, and others, to claim something as juvenile and subjective as diving is ruining the game is dramatic and overstated. To use a quote from the comedian Sean Locke, to rid diving from the beautiful game would be like turning up to the aftermath of an earthquake with a dustpan and brush. Football is already wrecked - let's concentrate on the major issues instead.