Swansea fan or not, watching Chico Flores rolling around on the floor in Saturday's clash against West Ham was far more painful than the incident itself. When Andy Carroll's arm caught the defender on the top of the head following an aerial challenge, Chico decided to try out his new 'this is what would happen if I got shot' skit, resulting in a straight red card for the Hammers number nine.
Of course, this isn't the first time that the problem of play-acting or diving has come to light and any football fan will be well aware of the likes of Ashley Young, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale bringing the technique of Tom Daley to the football pitch. With West Ham's Carroll receiving a red card and potentially missing at least three key matches against Aston Villa, Norwich and Southampton, it raises the debate as to whether those who are diving should be seriously punished.
Recently, we have seen those guilty of diving pick up a yellow card or two, but the sad truth is that for a player who hasn't yet been booked in a game, the risk is worth it, especially if a free-kick or opposition red card is the outcome. The incident involving Chico Flores is no different. He hadn't been booked prior to the challenge and as the contact was certain, he knew that a substantial reaction would get Carroll into trouble. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Andy Carroll's red card will be rescinded, but even if it is, had the result gone against West Ham on Saturday, I doubt that the FA lifting the ban would have made up for it.
The fact that diving and simulation is becoming more common means that bigger and stronger teams will find it nearly impossible to succeed against those who cheat. Yes, it's cheating and until the issue is addressed fully, players will continue to go down easily under the challenge of a stronger player, because common sense would dictate that it is a foul. Teams who rely on strength, like West Ham and Stoke, will be forced to either change their style of play, or bare the consequences of a player unfairly altering the game.
So far this season, 14 yellow cards have been issued to those who have been caught diving and 120 since people began counting in August 2008.
Some suggestions have been put forward, including an automatic red card for a dive, however, the referee can get this decision wrong as easily as he can miss a dive. The best suggestion mentioned is arguably the fining of players if found guilty. As we all know, money is central in the Premier League and at the risk of annoying certain fans, the three worst offenders today, Suarez, Bale and Young, would probably stay on their feet if their wages were at risk.
It is clear that Chico Flores' play-acting is very different to a dive, but it is hard to see why one is worse than the other when both can unfairly change the course of a match. Referees are beginning to get to grips with diving, but play-actors have gone unpunished, so surely, even if the discipline is handed out in retrospect, the likes of Chico Flores should be suspended.
It is also interesting to consider the sin-bin rule that we see enforced in Rugby as it is due to be discussed by Fifa and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on 1 March. The rule would replace yellow cards and a player would be forced to leave the field for a small period of time instead. A second offence warrants a red card. When sin-bins have been suggested before in football, the majority of people strongly opposed the idea, but it is currently being trialled in the amateur Dutch leagues and would certainly solve the problem of discipline and play-acting, even if it would take time for players to become accustomed to the rule.
Ultimately, there are a number of ways to solve the problem of diving and play-acting, but they all come with their own problems. In Chico Flores' case, there is no doubt that he warrants a suspension, otherwise what's to stop him doing it in every game?
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