After all the media coverage of the Eduardo dive and the Henry hand ball, I truly expected Wayne Rooney to cop it following his pretty appalling dive for Manchester United against Aston Villa.
But no. Study the papers in the days since that game and not that much has been written. If you read the BBC Sport online match report the incident warrants 12 words. How can that be? Do we truly believe that diving in the Premier League is still a strictly foreign disease? If so, that’s strange, as the figures don’t stack up. Of the 11 players who have been booked for simulation (the Fifa world for cheating) in the EPL this season, 7 are from the UK or Ireland.
Perhaps all the national newspaper football reporters have been reading Footy Boots recently as it seems abundantly clear that I’m in the minority when it comes to wanting to banish diving from the sport. The majority of comments that have been posted on this subject seem to be along the lines of ‘it happens…its part of the game…get over it’.
Well, sorry, but I can’t.
Writing for Yahoo Sport, Fulham’s Danny Murphy said:”There are situations in the game when players anticipate the tackle coming and there is a difference between that and outright diving.
Wayne isn’t a player who would actively look to go down under a challenge. After the incident, he was straight back on his feet and didn’t even appeal for the penalty.”
Rooney Dive – Video
Not even Rooney can score when the ball is closer to the fans than to the opposing keeper.Rooney has got a bit of previous in this respect as well as Spurs, Arsenal and Blackburn fans will remember.
So it was a bit strange to read in the News of the World that this incident represented ‘uncharacteristic behaviour’ by the United striker, who, in their opinion, was United’s best player on the day. This from the same newspaper stable that ran the headline ‘Cheat-Ed’ and ‘Throw the book at him’ after Eduardo’s tumble against Celtic.
Eduardo was subsequently cleared by UEFA after Arsenal proved that there had been contact between him and the Celtic goalkeeper, though the contact was so slight it wouldn’t have bothered your little sister let alone a grown man.
Of course it could be that Rooney’s actions didn’t get more media coverage because it didn’t ultimately influence the game, unlike Henry’s hand ball. But does that make it less of a crime? Not in my opinion. Just because the officials didn’t ‘buy it’ doesn’t mean that he wasn’t trying to con them.
United fans will be quick to point out that Rooney is not the only guilty party of late and they’d be right. Another England international, Steven Gerrard, spent so long on the floor for Liverpool against Arsenal that I began to suspect that he was constantly looking for a lost contact lens or searching for buried treasure.
And there’s my point. It’s not just Rooney or Gerrard – it’s all of them. Different weeks, different players. Sometimes, even innocent players. Anyone else agree that Craig Bellamy wouldn’t have been dismissed last weekend if diving wasn’t so prevalent right now?
Going back to Danny Murphy’s piece on Yahoo, he goes on: “If players know their actions are punishable retrospectively, we would see far less diving in the game in my opinion. The game could possibly introduce a panel of experts, people with direct knowledge of the game such as ex-professionals. This panel would then analyse an offence deemed as diving after the game and determine the punishment accordingly.”
Seems like a plan to me.
How The Sun covered the Eduardo story
Finally, and just going back to the Eduardo incident one last time, I recall Rooney’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson being quoted at the time saying that Uefa were right to punish him (which they did before the ban was rescinded). So, will he, I wonder, punish Rooney if he feels that strongly about it?
Breath, holding, be, won’t, I, my – you can rearrange those words to make a sentence if you like!