This week’s controversy corner centres around Swansea’s simulating centre-back Chico Flores.
The red card was swiftly brandished, signaling a premature end to the big man’s afternoon. For over an hour, he had poured blood, sweat and tears into extracting a magnificent victory over Swansea. However, all it took was for an innocuous tangle with Spanish centre-back Chico Flores, for the referee to send Andy Carroll for an early bath. Flores, who is no stranger to play-acting, had been grappling with Carroll as they tussled for the ball, with the Geordie attempting to break free of his grip. The top of his arm brushed the Spaniard’s head, which led to him collapsing to the ground, clutching his face in ‘agony’.
Incidents like this have become commonplace in modern football. Grown men, built like houses, and who spend hours in the gym on a weekly basis, crumpling to the turf at the slightest bit of contact. Hands cover their faces in a comically pathetic fashion, as they squirm around, hoping to catch the attention of the man in black. Chico Flores wasn’t even the first offender guilty of this kind of play-acting this week. Burly Norwich City hardman Bradley Johnson was embroiled in a spat with Newcastle frontman Loic Remy in midweek, before red cards were brandished to both of them, following some shoving. While Remy certainly shouldn’t have stuck his head in Johnson’s face, the reaction was pathetic, as Johnson recoiled with his hands holding his face, attempting to con the referee into believing that actual damage had been done. While the referee made a positive stand, in sending him off for his ridicioulous role in the charade, his red card was immediately rescinded on appeal.
It is these acts of play-acting which are threatening to undermine the sport. While they can look comical at times, such as the famous example of Rivaldo crumpling to the floor, with his face in his hands, following a ball to the hip in the 2002 World Cup, they are more often than not, signs of pathetic sportsmanship that has crept into the game. The reputation of this sport has been dragged through the mud at times, with onlookers highlighting the preening prima donnas, and the faking of injuries, as reasons for their lack of interest. With characters such as Flores existing in the game, who often get confused between a football pitch and a Hollywood movie set, the game is in danger of being dragged into disrepute. People will slowly become disillusioned with the sport when they see these strong athletes hitting the turf at the slightest bit of contact.
MNF pundit Gary Neville has divided the football world with his opinions on diving, stating that players should go down at the slightest touch, in a ‘win at all costs’ fashion. What Chico Flores did on Sunday afternoon was not ‘winning at all costs’. It was straight up conning another human being in the hopes of getting his rival sportsman sent off. How could any of the West Ham players be expected to look him in the eye, let alone shake his hand following the full-time whistle? If West Ham’s numerical disadvantage had gone to count against them on Saturday afternoon, they wouldn’t have had Carroll to blame. After all, he had set Kevin Nolan up for his brace with two perfectly cushioned headers. No, they would have had a pony-tailed Spaniard with a penchant for ‘over-selling it’, to exact their fury and disgust at.
A lot has been said about diving in the media lately. We also need to look at play-acters such as the aforementioned Flores and Johnson, and start imposing some bans. Otherwise, the last morsels of credibility that still exist in this sport will start to evaporate before our very eyes.
Pundit Arena, Michael Ramsay.