I linked to this already on the Story So Far, but I think it’s worth a standalone post. There are a couple of interesting elements here. First, Gary is speaking in the situation not as a former fox-in-the-box striker, but a defender. Moreover, a defender, a first team right back for Manchester United for years.

Of course, Neville wasn’t six feet tall but a comfy 5’11″, and as a fullback, he would have well understood what it meant to run at a central defender with a good foot height advantage. He likely would have seen challenges in this context from both sides.

It’s also interesting in that it adds another layer of nuance to tackles, which are currently viewed as a simple dichotomy between “dive” and “foul” (and it can be both apparently, as many pointed out that Torres’ ‘decision’ to ‘easily’ go to ground rather than keep going despite being stepped on from behind constituted simulation).

Neville raises the point that perhaps “diving” may be in some instances a safety measure. That it may not be in a player’s best long-term interest to ‘ride a challenge,’ particularly if it sees him sandwiched all over the pitch at the end. How often have we seen a striker attempt to follow through a tackle, only for the ball to be expertly knocked away right before they’re upended by a defender flat on the field, upon which they writhe in pain for a minute before getting back up again?

If the player instead decides to go to ground come what may, does that make them any less intelligent a player? And when all of this is considered, how can we expect a referee to adjudicate the intent of both parties in a split second without the benefit of a slow motion replay from five unique angles?

Comments (7)

  1. Gary Neville is the best football analyst/commentator there is in England, hands down. No matter what you think of him as a footballer (heck, I am a United fan and I thought he was a bit of an ass). I go out of my way to download skysport’s post match commentaries because BBC’s MOTD is absolutely garbage.

    On his point, I do think there are some cases where it’s neither (foul or dive). The Evan’s “tackle” would be one. It certainly looked like a dive from the angle of the ref, you needed slow motion to even see the contact, and Torres fell over like he was jumping off a springboard and immediately clutched his knee (he allegedly got click on the shin) and looked to the ref like a little girl begging her parents for that barbie doll. Instead he got the equivalent of being grounded for acting like a spoiled brat.

    It was harsh to send him off, no doubt, but he totally asked for it. It should be just been a non-call and get on with the game. Also, his high kick on Cleverley was way more deserving of a straight red, but no one talks about it (except Neville and Sourness).

  2. For all of us who have played soccer at any particular level (im guessing most people here have in some way or another) will know that when running at any sort of pace with the ball, how easy it is to lose your balance and go down. Challenges may look soft, especially on replay, but after playing myself i only understand furthur how easily a player can get knocked off balance from a simple knick or a trailing foot and end up on the ground.

    • Good Points,

      My overall is issues with Football is the excessive exaggeration of injuries. Guys go down like they have just had a leg cut off. They roll around in agony and an for a split second think that just maybe this guy is messed up only to see the replay and discover nothing actually happened. Back to the live coverage has the lad on a stretcher heading for the side lines. As soon as he breaks the plane that is the side line, his injury is instantly and magically healed enough that he can leap from the stretcher and run on the spot and the bitch at the ref to let him back onto the field of play.

      I played both hockey and soccer. In hockey, if your that hurt, chances are your heading to the hospital and will be out for a long time.

      It’s pathetic, weak and ridiculous the injury shows these guys put on.

      Yes, some times it is better to go down to draw a free kick but there is an abundance of necessary flopping all over the place in the name of the soft culture that has embraced most football leagues.

    • For me, the real question is not whether there was contact from a defender, but whether or not that contact is what causes the player with the ball to go down. If yes,it’s a foul. If no,then it’s simulation, because the attacker is simulating that he was knocked down by someone else.

  3. I believe if the camera puleld back when a player goes down at th 30-35 or 60-70 minute marke, we would see both sides at their benches getting water and instructions, remember people these are 45 minute shifts not 45 seconds, when a player has a chance to go to ground 3/4′s into a half, he will to get his teammates a break.

  4. I’m sorry but anticipating the challenge is one thing, but knowing that a challenge is coming and consciously gaining an advantage by diving or feigning is CHEATING! No matter what Gary Neville says or not. I played football for almost 30 years and have been refereeing football for the last 10 years. I have never seen it this bad on the football pitches at all the levels I have played and refereed until the last few.

  5. it wouldn’t be so bad if the players didn’t always act like there legs/ankle had just been broke for them to just get up 1 min later. the players are doing it to themselves and given what the refs are expected to do in a split second with the tools they have. The players should stand up against players doing so. if i was a Liverpool player on the field when Suarez did that fake dive i would of went right to him and told him “you think doing that is going to make life any easier for u now?”.

    The game needs to get with the times and use replays to review any questionable goals. Maybe Football should implement timeouts for teams (1 a game) and heck maybe even a challenge flag like the NFL has (at the cost of the 1 timeout) that could only be used on game changing decisions like red cards and penalty kicks. either that or fans just need to shut-up and accept it for what it is and the entertainment it provides us (not going to happen).

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