Time to act on football's floppers?
Oscar's dive against Southampton prompted widespread criticism in the British media.
January 3rd, 2014
04:40 PM ET

Time to act on football's floppers?

It’s the bugbear of every football fan.

A player hits the turf after a collision with an opponent, rolling around in apparent agony before the referee brings the game to a halt.

The stricken “victim” is eventually led from the field, either limping alongside his team’s physio or lying prostrate on a stretcher.

When the player leaves the pitch and the action eventually resumes, something miraculous happens.

Displaying Lazarus-like powers of recovery, the reenergized soccer star rises to his feet and sprints eagerly back into the fray.

Week after week, game after game, supporters across the globe watch these displays of amateur dramatics from players eager to waste valuable seconds or gain an advantage - such as a penalty or a free-kick - as their team bids for victory.

Cricket has “sledging,” the now traditional trading of insults between players. Basketball has “flopping,” when a player falls intentionally under minimal or no contact.

But when it comes the dark arts of gamesmanship in sport, football has no equal.

Diving once again dominated English back pages over the festive period, with Chelsea midfielder Oscar yellow-carded and roundly lambasted for going to ground in a match against Southampton when it looked easier to score.

Manchester United’s prodigious winger Adnan Januzaj is also developing a reputation, not only as a fine young attacker but also as someone with a penchant for what football authorities call “simulation.”

If it is an issue riling football fans, it is also something the game’s most senior official is keen to tackle.

Sepp Blatter, president of soccer’s global governing body FIFA, said: “I find it deeply irritating, especially when the (supposedly) half-dead player comes back to life as soon as they have left the pitch.”

He used his column in FIFA Weekly magazine to suggest referees could prevent play-acting players from returning to the field until their team has incurred a disadvantage.

From the man who suggested women should play in sexier kits and that racism could be settled with a handshake, it is a refreshingly constructive idea.

Imagine if Januzaj, a player who has been booked three times for simulation in just 14 Premier League appearances, was forced to watch from the sidelines as United conceded a last-minute goal in a crucial Champions League tie?

Would David Moyes been so keen to defend his talented winger if his play-acting and time-wasting cost the club the millions of pounds which come with progression in Europe’s top competition?

While Blatter’s proposal wouldn’t solve the problem of diving, it would be a step in the right direction in football’s interminable battle against simulation.

The idea of a referee intentionally disadvantaging a team initially sounds outrageous, and it is often difficult to determine the difference between simulation and genuine anguish.

But it would only take one instance of a team conceding a goal while their player is off the pitch to make every manager actively discourage their charges from feigning injury.

Until one brave official makes such a call, football will remain top of the flops.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. *andrew

    The only illustration of MLS'
    superiority in world football – the policy of reviewing all match film and harshly fining or suspending players confirmed to have simulated fouls. Percentages of salaries fined are high and suspensions impactful - a 500k euro fine to these blatant cheats would cure all ills....

    January 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • KenJ

      The fine might be a bit harsh but I do agree with the principle.
      Could we expand the review to include cheats: those who take a throw ins or a free kick meters from where the ball went out or the offense was committed? Many times, every match, professional footballers CHEAT.

      January 13, 2014 at 12:40 am | Reply
  2. JoeOvercoat

    The performances one sees in this sport seem more suited to a high school drama club.

    January 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Reply
    • Gollum

      This is a bad suggestion, though it has a good intention. Better would be 15 minutes off the pitch.

      January 12, 2014 at 4:22 am | Reply
  3. James

    Silly writer – that game is called 'soccer'.

    January 3, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • john isner

      I hope you do now that in the rest of the world soccer is called football and that American football is only played in America.

      January 4, 2014 at 1:57 am | Reply
      • chasden

        You have been trolled. LOL @ you.

        February 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
    • Darren

      No Its called Football by every county that plays it. It is only Americans that call it soccer.

      January 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • Daniel

      Sorry Dude.
      It is "soccer" for Yankees (pop 300 million). The rest of the world (6-7 Billion) calls it football. CNN is only accepting the awful truth...for Yankees. Greetings from Brazil!

      January 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Leonardo Cruz

      Of the 45 national FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) affiliates in which English is an official or primary language, 43 use football in their organisations' official names (only Canada and the United States use soccer).

      January 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Reply
      • jesse

        i'm from SA and we use the word soccer, so does aussy...

        January 9, 2014 at 6:37 am |
      • KenJ

        I was also from South Africa where football is regulated by SAFA, Try to find the S for "Soccer" !!! Idiot.
        In Australia, football colloquially refers to "footie" and is about Australian Football League (AFL) which is played on a disused cricket field by 30 ex-convicts in very short pants. So yes, locals might refer to soccer to avoid confusion, but the formal league is still called FOOTBALL.
        http://www.footballaustralia.com.au/aleague

        January 13, 2014 at 12:31 am |
    • Son of a Gunderson

      He was trolling. Get off your high horses. Relax.

      January 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Reply
    • Papa USA

      You call a game you play with your hands football. The right name for American football should handball. You the call the writer silly, you are rather a fool. Check the history of the game football what you call soccer and you will know that it is older than your grandmother.

      January 7, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • luc

      How can you use your hands in a game called football? ?,,,, might as well just call it "ball ",,,,

      January 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Reply
    • fitzy

      Er...... No it isn't mate, it's been known as football since the 1100s here in the UK. In something like the 13th or 14th century the king tried to ban it because Archers were getting injured and/or failing to practice their archery in favour of footie, thereby leaving the King's realm vulnerable. Football, played with a round ball by billions world wide.

      February 8, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Reply
      • Don

        You realize the term "soccer" was coined by an englishman as an abbreviation of association football yes?

        So you started calling it soccer before we americans did :)

        The term soccer originated in England, first appearing in the 1880s as an Oxford "-er" abbreviation of the word "association".[33]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_football#Etymology_and_names

        June 12, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
  4. Marc

    And Mourinho's got the gall to criticise Suarez. What a hypocrite.

    January 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Well he also criticized Oscar after the Southampton game. Not sure how he's being hypocritical...

      January 4, 2014 at 2:02 am | Reply
  5. T.R. Grady

    I think football should take a page from hockey. Injured players who leave the field cannot return for a set period of time – say 2 minutes. Players who are yellow carded for simulation must remain in a penalty box for 5 minutes. This would provide an advantage to the opposition that may well eliminate the simulation fouls as well as those guys who waste time pretending injury.

    January 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  6. PaulfromChicago

    It is tough for a ref to call this. A fellow like Andy Carroll has been booked for simulation when he simply tripped over his own feet. Someone like Luis Suarez will be legitimately fouled and be denied penalties because he has been accused of of simulation in the past.

    A better place to start would be with Sepp Blatter himself. The man should be shown the red card from FIFA for being a mere simulation of an honest official.

    January 3, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  7. Alex in NJ

    They already are doing something about diving. The technical term is, "simulation," and you get at least a yellow card, red if it's bad enough.

    January 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm | Reply
    • chasden

      I hope you're not a referee here in NJ.

      February 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  8. David

    I've always thought it should be a yellow card if you are caught diving, and if you leave for an injury, you have to stay out for the half.

    January 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Reply
  9. dave

    'Time to act on football's floppers?' Seriously? What else are they going to do for 90 minutes?

    January 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  10. Martin Gallardo

    As in NFL there can be a "challenge" on the play so the referee can see the replay from different angles and keep or change his decision. Another option can be a fourth "electronic" referee that from a boothe with video feed can talk back to the main referee and give his opinion on the foul/penalty/etc...that is a way to end with those "actors" on the soccer field.

    January 3, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      There's a problem with an electronic referee. NFL is only played in USA, where this technology is available. Football (soccer) is infinitely more widespread, so it is a lot harder to implement new technologies.

      January 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • chasden

      You can't challenge fouls (penalties) in NFL. Nice try, though.

      February 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  11. Anthony

    I used to love soccer but now it becomes just a bunch of over paid pussies running around tripping over blades of grass!!

    January 4, 2014 at 11:29 am | Reply
    • Karel

      Just like football is just a bunch of guys running around hitting each other.

      February 18, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  12. Rick

    The only way to stop all this nonsense (and this nonsense is why I completely stopped watching the sport years ago) is to remove anyone of southern European ancestry from the game. Of course then there wouldn't be many good players left.

    January 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  13. aaronking62

    Anybody hurt seriously enough to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher should be through for the day. If the person is deemed to have been acting the team must play their next game one man down. Problem solved.

    January 4, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  14. David Tuer

    I ask myself, how much of an obstruction or shirt pull or ankle tap is required to deprive a striker of a legitimate chance on goal? We've all seen tactics designed to illegally stop an attacking player from striking on goal.(and forwards crowding around a goalkeeper to obstruct him and to prevent him from being able to reach the cross coming in from a corner kick). I guess you'll see 10 fouls a match in the penalty area that go unpunished but which would be would be blown up if committed outside of the area. I can only surmise that referees believe the penalty is too harsh a punishment for such offences. Maybe a sin bin or perhaps a revival of the indirect free kick would allow referees more latitude in dealing with offenses in the penalty area.

    January 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  15. CAF

    All the world's a stage, including the football pitch.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  16. SuperAmik

    I played this sport for 2 decades from the time I was 5 through my University years. I loved it, was passionate about it. Today I can't stand to watch more than 15 minutes of any given match as it has become a pageant of poofery and pathetic acting. Someone makes incidental contact, shoulder-on-shoulder and the "inflicted" player must throw himself to the ground in feigned agony and clutch his left ankle in a fetal position. Pathetic and worthy of all contempt. This is why football is no longer a sport, but a theater of the absurd.

    January 21, 2014 at 12:53 am | Reply
  17. Booty

    How about this? FIFA can simply state that their top priority is the health of their players. If a player falls down grabbing their head, FIFA must assume that they have received a possible neck or brain injury. If a player falls down clutching their knee, FIFA must assume that they have suffered severe tendon, bone, or ligament damage. In either case, the player must be immobilized, stabilized, and taken to the nearest hospital for testing and evaluation.

    If the players want to make believe they have been injured, the medical staff should make believe it's real also.

    That would stop flopping instantaneously.

    January 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Reply
    • Scott

      I like this one best. I started thinking that if a player goes down then he simply is not healthy enough to come back for the rest of the game. But you've got the right idea. If a player is hurt enough to be carried off, he's hurt enough to be evaluated at a hospital. Simple as that!

      February 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  18. David C

    It's really sad the way the so-called superstars not only are overpaid but are taking the game to lower levels of credibility.
    If we compare a women's match to a men's match, the men cry more like ladies than the ladies. We should support women to succeed in the sport because they really play the game with passion and heart, not faking injuries to have advantage over the adversary. And yes, the hockey rule is great, keep the fakers off the field 2 or 3 minutes because they rather be acting than playing the game. Mr Blatter get out of FIFA.

    February 3, 2014 at 2:22 am | Reply
  19. Jeff

    Very simple solution: use video evidence to suspend players that are caught after the game. It is often hard to make a judgement call on field over such a matter, and soccer is nowhere near instant replay, but video evidence may show a very deliberate dive. Let the ref mark plays as suspicious for review after the game in his report, and if video shows he was correct, the flopper sits out a few matches. If he was wrong, nothing further needs to come of it.

    February 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  20. Sergio

    I'm not entirely sure Blatter or other football officials want this to end, because any controversy is ultimately "good" for the game by making it more talked about.
    But if they really did want to eliminate diving, they should make dives reviewable after the match, when it's a lot easier to see if there was contact or not. If it was a dive, give the player a card after the fact and fine him a few thousand euros.
    If a ref has no doubt in real time that a player took a dive, then yellow card, off for five minutes and a hefty fine after the match.
    But everyone knows that nothing will be done. In ten years we'll still be debating how best to deal with the blight that is diving in football. God forgive we move too fast and mess up the "beautiful" game.

    February 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  21. Stargoat

    It's called Diving, not flopping. Robin Van Persie dives. Lebron James flops.

    February 13, 2014 at 1:20 am | Reply
  22. Alan Robert Guiraldino

    I am Brazilian and this kind of bad thing happens here in Brazil, I don't like this kind of thing. That's why God is used by me in this matter and it works.

    February 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Reply

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