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Another goal for Gareth Bale further enhanced his reputation and price tag on Thursday evening but his booking for simulation, which rules him out of the second leg, could prove costly when Spurs travel to the San Siro next week.
Despite his protests it was clear that Bale dived as he attempted to win a penalty in the first half, mischievously moving his leg to collide shin-to-shin with Walter Gargano. The subsequent yellow card was his fourth of the season for such acts of dishonesty and, before Bale had even hit the deck, Twitter erupted with a torrent of invective towards the Spurs star over his tendency to take a tumble.
But what is so wrong with diving? While it may be a form of cheating, do culprits really deserve such strong denigration? It ranks high on the list of things I find myself completely indifferent towards, with all teams possessing a perpetrator at one point or another, and having gained or lost as a result of false fall. As a Blackburn fan I remember El Hadji Diouf diving to earn Bolton a match-winning penalty at Ewood Park in 2005. Four years later Rovers fans were cheering his name as Diouf was diving for our own cause, and suddenly I realised it was rather hypocritical to complain.
In many ways it seems an entirely British thing to castigate players who simulate contact. On these shores it's seen as a weak, cowardly and even unmanly thing to do. Plenty of managers, such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Pulis this season, have blamed the influx of foreign footballers for the increase in diving, but it's inherently wrong to excuse Bale or Adam Johnson in this way and point the finger at Luis Suarez, for example, for the wicked tricks he has brought to the Premier League. If anything, South Americans have a better attitude than our own to the 'problem', accepting that it's part of the pantomime and laughing at culprits rather than venting impotent fury.
There are many reasons as to why players take a fall which has led to a sort of perverse diving hierarchy. In trying to win a penalty, Bale's tumble on Thursday was at the very bottom of the morality scale, but the Spurs winger has previously explained that he jumps out of the way of certain challenges to avoid injury. This appears to be a perfectly reasonable course of action, although it seems that football fans would prefer him and others to take the hit like a man.
In truth, it's rarely that simple. ITV's excellent Laurie Cunningham documentary, which you can read more about here, showed footage of the former Real Madrid winger discussing the scars on his left leg after a prolonged spell on the sidelines. An operation on a torn ligament had left a huge incision mark on his knee and Cunningham said that defenders would often target the wound to try and take him out the game. Of course, violence of this nature has largely been stamped out by tougher rules and refereeing, but there are still opponents who like to go in hard - Nigel de Jong springs to mind - to remind others of their presence.
In these particular instances, it seems more acceptable to dive than when a player tries to win a free-kick against an innocent opponent. Rarely can we distinguish between the two cases, though, preferring to scream abuse (if the player isn't playing for our team) than concede that they may have felt it necessary to avoid the challenge. But if Gareth Bale wants to maintain his current progress, he'd be wise not to simply brace for the contact and risk injury.
This is not to defend Bale's attempt to win a penalty against Inter - lord knows, the Serie A side were poor enough without losing another goal to an act of cheating - but the referee's swift action should have been the end of the matter. Instead Bale will be battered again for diving, when the only real losers were Spurs, considering the winger's suspension for the second leg.
Footballers cheat all the time. They claim throw-ins, corners and even try to encroach at free-kicks. It's laughable and rather pointless and tiresome to moan and rage about it. Diving may be irksome, but is it really worth getting yourself all hot and bothered because a man fell over on purpose? Perhaps next time someone will dive against your team, but then maybe one of the players you're supposed to be cheering will take a tumble. And what are you going to say then?
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
I'm far more concerned with violent fouls than diving. The people who hate diving the most are almost always the people who have played football the least. They do not understand that as an attacking player, you are constantly fouled by the opposition and a only a low percentage of these fouls are penalised by the ref. Shirt pulling, tripping, elbows, knees, kicks, stamps take place in every match at every level and are not caught by the refs. The only counterbalance to this behaviour is diving. Yes, many dives are ridiculously over the top but my reaction is that they need to execute a better, more realistic dive. Nothing should be done about diving until something is done about subtle violent fouls first. Diving is a reaction and the only way to counterbalance subtle violent fouls. Of course, this will surely go over the head of those of you with no experience playing organised football at any decent level. You guys can keep being "fans". Fans are not concerned with logic, reason or reality. They just want to love their club and their club's players while hating other clubs and players of other clubs.- soul controller