Last night, Luis Suarez and Neymar took part in the greatest comeback in football’s recent memory, hard-pressing a very, very good Paris Saint Germain team into shitting their pantalons and relinquishing a four-goal lead. But, if you ask dads – cargo shorts and polo shirts and a plan to do up the back room one of these days, Karen, if you just stop going on about it dads – then they’re the two worst things to happen in football.
And now look how angry they are.
Eddie, he scored twice.
Anyway, what we have here is failure to understand that diving is amazing. It is both fun to do, funny to watch, and very effective: moaning about diving is like moaning about when a Harlem Globetrotter does a double-dribble. The rules of the game should be open to interpretation and gamesmanship, or else football would be so fucking boring. Do you know why nobody actually enjoys most of the Olympics? It’s because they’re video-judged and retrospectively banned into acting like robots. Imagine how much more fun those sports would be if they were allowed to play fast and loose with laws of their chosen games.
While dreams of a sporting world where performance enhancing drugs are not only allowed but actively encouraged, a world of superhumans and supervillains breaking world records before breakfast and then breaking out in fits of rage and acne, will forever be curtailed by the massively increased risk of serious injury and death, this is as close as we can get. What Suarez* and company do is almost as much part of the game as Ronaldinho catching the ball on his shoulder and scampering away from Real Betis defenders: if the refs let it go then we should all let it go.
Neymar not only frustrated the opposition players with his clever body positioning and unpredictable vertical stability, he dragged the players all over the place with his movement and skill and scored a world class free-kick and another absolutely vital penalty, and then assisted the winner in the final six minutes of the game. That, whichever way you look at it, is elite mentality.
Here’s another example:
Lewandowski is elite. He’s skillful and deceptively quick and possesses fantastic vision, passing, and finishing, and also sometimes, for good measure, when needed, he does what he has to do. In the clutch – to use a little American parlance to keep the pot of piss at a steady bubble – the Polish striker slowed down, let notoriously rash Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny catch him up before pushing himself off the defender and onto the floor, simulating contact between the pair by substituting Kosc’s arm for his own. This is how you do a dive. This is a fantastic dive. When season end comes and the days get warm and long, maybe we can all sit down and enjoy them: Dives of the Season, where this one comes out on top.
For those still not sure, think about British football’s popular preference for the tough-tackler. He cleaned out that defender when the ball had already gone and left the poor git in a crumpled heap? What a boy. Erect a flag, a statue. Hand me that tattoo gun. But cheating of a different kind, of a more – ahem – shall we say, continental variety has scorn heaped upon it. Scorn running hot and heavy upon scorn, a scorn fondu. It is the scourge of our game, isn’t it, this cheating, and should be wiped out. It is everything that is wrong with modern football, this pretending you’re hurt instead of willfully harming someone. Introduce video refs! Banning orders! CCTV! Get the Dubious Goals Committee to set aside a spare few hours to comb through frame after frame of penalty-decision footage to determine validity of contact like detectives! Get in body language experts! Get Alan Brazil in – gorgeous, red Alan Brazil! He’d sort them out! Ban Luis chuffing Suarez for seven chuffing games, Alan!
It’s funny that the Against Modern Football mafia, an assembly of grumpy men with a Sky+ box full of Time Team and talkSPORT on their speed-dial, are the first to run to the hilltop and scream for retrospective bans for diving. I, too, enjoy football’s purity and thought it was a shame when goal-line technology was introduced, forever destroying the connective tissue of the game – that football was the same game from Sunday morning in Hackney to Wednesday evening in Barcelona – but I got over it. Modern football has lots of faults – too much money, too much advertising pressure, the Europa League being absolutely, totally, irredeemably crap – but it’s actually very easy to enjoy football: it’s because it’s good.
If the confused geeks sharpening their pitchforks against this pox on the sport get their way, and more and more technology is involved in the game, then they’re the ones who are going to enjoy it the least.
[Main Image: Rex Features]
*not to defend Suarez as a person, because he is undoubtedly a bad racist nobhead.