A cheat and a diver, these are the words being used to describe Luis Suarez recently but are these words reflective of our number 7? I say no. Recently the issue of diving has come to the forefront in everyone’s mind. It seems with every match in the premiership this season the issue of diving arises, did the player dive or was there actual contact? A question that the television pundits and journalists ask on what seems like a weekly basis and a question that is asked every time Suarez goes down.
Referees are human (believe it or not) and just like the rest of us, they sometimes are prone to judging a person on their reputation, it is after all human nature to do so, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, sometimes referees are guilty of this act. Yet what is it that has given Suarez a reputation as a diver? Is it going down softly after contact has been made with a defender? In my opinion these are not the actions of a diver, these are the actions of a player who is trying to win for his team by gaining an advantage over his opponent (just as Suarez or Messi wearing adidas boots does not automatically make adidas boots ‘better’, it’s just sponsorship and the way football now works).
Is this not what we as fans want? A player fighting to win and to help his team, obviously there is a line not to cross, but going down a tad softly after clear contact certainly cannot be described as a dive.
Michael Owen recently admitted to ‘diving’ (his choice of words) for England on more than one occasion, yet no agenda was made against him. Is this because he did it for the benefit of the national team, who we all as fans want to see win? Or is this because he is English and we have a perception that diving is only committed by foreign players and was something they brought over to our game.
Either way Suarez has become a victim of what players are being told to do, go down after contact from a defender. Referees themselves encourage players to go down if they feel contact, making their job easier. Obviously referees do not go out before a game and tell all the players to dive if they feel as though they can gain a free kick or penalty for their team, but it is clear that if a player is fouled and attempts to stay on their feet, they most certainly will not gain a penalty as the referee will interpret the contact as minimal as the player was able to stay on their feet. With this in mind, what is Suarez meant to do? Stay on his feet after being fouled and not being given a rightful penalty? Or go down after contact with the idea of getting a penalty, which again, he rightfully should receive? If he stays on his feet he risks not gaining an advantage for his team and not scoring, yet if he were to go to ground, he will be labelled a diver and a cheat. This seems to be a lose-lose situation.
Gone are the old days of football being a real contact sport, (remember some of the fouls in the 70’s and 80’s?) now it seems any contact is condemned a foul, this is not Liverpool nor Suarez’s fault, this has happened as the game has evolved through time.
So if the norm in football is, contact means a foul, then Suarez has nothing to be ashamed of if he goes down a tad theatrically after contact. Granted he does tend to exaggerate his fall, but 99% of the time he does fall down after contact and does not go to ground without any touch from a defender.
So I ask, how can people label him as a diver? Recently we have seen Gareth Bale go to ground for both Spurs and Wales, and after carefully looking back at these incidents, I cannot see any contact from the defender or in the spurs incident, the goalkeeper. So is this not a dive? I’ve heard the line, ‘He is so quick that sometimes his legs must clip each other when running with the ball’ that is all fine and well, and great for Bale, but if there has been no contact and he has gone to ground, is this not a dive?
If he did actually trip over due to his speed, then surely He should get up and continue with the game, not protest to the referee that it was a foul. He could easily walk up to the ref and say ‘it was my fault I went down, the defender made no contact with me’ but I have not seen this happen. This is nothing against Bale, who I think is an amazing player, just an example of different standards for different players. Suarez deserves a break and deserves to be treated in the exact same was as any other player.
As a Liverpool fan if Suarez does in fact dive, I will hold my hands up and admit ‘That was a dive’ but if he goes down after clear contact and is not given a penalty or free-kick I will still be here asking ‘Did he not get that foul because of the name on his back?’ Against Reading we saw him win a free-kick, which was greeted with a rapturous applause from the supporters, is he finally being treated fairly and was the referee strong enough to call a foul a foul, even if it happened to Suarez? Only time will tell. Here’s hoping that in a time where everybody is asking to be treated equally (like they deserve) Suarez receives the same treatment.