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Is It Time to Stop Vilifying Divers?

12/03/2014 16:44 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 10:59 BST

Before we go into this, let's just get a couple of things straight. Diving is wrong and should be punished, nobody here's arguing with that, but does diving get blown out of all proportion in relation to other offences which carry similar punishments? Absolutely.

Let's take a couple of examples.

In the semi-final of the 2002 World Cup, German midfielder Michael Ballack fouled a South Korean player in order to break up a promising attack and received a yellow card for his trouble, which put him out of the World Cup final. His foul, however, stopped a promising South Korean attack and helped put Germany into the final.

Fast forward around 10 years and Luis Suarez dived in the box during a Premier League game against Stoke City in order to win a penalty (which, in the event, was not awarded) to break the deadlock.

Both players later admitted that their actions were deliberate, each was desperate for their side to win their respective matches.

Unsurprisingly, Suarez was taken to pieces by the media and the fans, even his own manager condemned his actions. Stoke manager Tony Pulis labelled the Uruguayan striker "an embarrassment" after the match and the label of "diver" has stuck with Suarez since.

Compare and contrast this with the reaction to Ballack's actions at the World Cup. Germany coach Rudi Voeller called it a "tactical foul that was absolutely necessary." He went on to say that "He placed himself at the service of the team and the whole of Germany - the entire country will stand and applaud him."

Why the differing reactions? Both players deliberately broke the rules of the game in situations that they believed it would serve their team. Both players admitted their wrongdoing. So why is Suarez a villain and Ballack a hero, especially since Suarez's actions actually had no effect on the outcome of the game?

The answer may lie in culture. English football has, to put it mildly, a minor obsession with its past. As such, the fans and the media prize 'traditional' values like hard tackling and running around a lot, as well as harder to define qualities such as 'passion', and 'honesty'.

As such, there's a deep-seated mistrust of anything seen as 'sneaky', whereas an enforcing midfielder built like a brick outhouse getting booked for delivering a reducer to the opposition's smallest player is "part of the English game".

This is the concept that the issue keeps coming back to. The idea that breaking the rules in a specific way is okay, because it's the English way (whatever that means), but the way the foreigners do it is subversive and wrong. Obviously neither is ideal, but surely you'd rather see a player take a harmless tumble in the box than see yet another horrific leg-breaking tackle in the name of playing hard.

Tony Pulis can call Luis Suarez an embarrassment for diving all he wants, but his Stoke City team finished dead last in the Premier League Fair Play table last year. It smacks of hypocrisy to complain about one rule being broken whilst lauding your players for "playing hard" beyond the rules.

Again, this isn't a call for diving to be applauded, or indeed for every foul to be picked apart as mercilessly as every possible dive. It's just a call for a little balance and perspective. If you're outraged when a Luis Suarez or an Ashley Young takes a tumble in the box, but applaud the constant fouling of someone like Lee Cattermole, then take a minute to ask yourself if you're being reasonable. Both actions change the game and they're both yellow card offences. By the letter of the law, neither is worse than the other. Why treat them differently?

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