Following Frank Lampard's already infamous 'goal that never was', two different themes have dominated the work of many football writers. The first, which I briefly touched upon if my previous post, is the reinvigorated campaign for goal-line technology to be implemented by FIFA. The second has been the labelling of Germany's goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, a 'cheat'.
Neuer stated after the game: "I tried not to react to the referee and just concentrate on what was happening. I realised it was over the line and I think the way I carried on so quickly fooled the referee into thinking it was not over." His actions and this subsequent quote have created a fresh wave of articles criticising the lack of ethics in football today. What he did maybe cannot be claimed to be cheating but it was certainly unsportsmanlike behaviour.
Many would claim that those who criticise Neuer's lack of honesty are 'naïve'. Surely that is the problem. Few have directed any blame over Lampard's non-goal at Neuer. We live in an age where you would be considered foolish to think that sportsmen would show a shred of honesty or integrity if it impacted upon their chance of winning.
Cheating comes in many forms. The difficulty is where you draw the line. Is shirt pulling in the box cheating? Technically it is against the rules. It is, however, done by all teams and is therefore not of benefit to any one specific individual or team.
One of the greatest threats to the game is 'simulation'. The current World Cup has been riddled with it. Players falling down clutching their face on the lightest of contact, diving or feigning injuries to delay the game are now all commonplace. Players are lying to win penalties or to have their opponents reprimanded. Who can forget Rivaldo falling to the ground as if he had been on the end of a Mike Tyson right-hook having merely been struck on the shin by a football.
Last night Ricardo Costa unintentionally elbowed the Spaniard Capdevila who promptly delivered his rendition of an extra from Platoon. If you watch the replays carefully you can see he starts to sit up before seeing the referee approaching Costa and then continuing his performance. It is intentional and blatant cheating.
The win at all costs attitude that currently exists means that moments like Maradona or Theirry Henry's handball will only continue to occur. What can be done? Quite simply, an example ought to be made of these players. Diving, unfair red cards due to simulation, pressuring referees to produce cards and obvious cheating actions, like handballs, need to be reviewed and severely punished. It is the only way this problem can be tackled.
Fines will do little with the wages that most footballers are on these days. Perhaps instead there ought to be match bans which increase for re-offenders. This way moments can be put under review and examined after the match and so referees are not expected to manage the problem single handedly. The sooner there are serious implications for dishonest behaviour the better chance there is of removing, or at least limiting, acts of simulation or cheating.
I am not going as far as to say that cheating or simulation is ruining the game but it a serious problem nevertheless. Like drug-use in athletics or like the fake-blood tactics employed by Harlequins, it is threatening the integrity of the game. It is now an accepted part of the game and is probably a tactic discussed on the training ground and the English are as guilty as anyone else.
Football is criticised by onlookers as a game of 'fairies' and 'cheats'. The reaction of the players to the slightest contact makes such opinions increasingly understandable. It is, as the responses to Neuer's actions clearly illustrates, becoming synonymous with the sport. Dishonest behaviour is not only accepted but is expected. Action ought to be taken and repercussions need to be implemented so that cheating in whatever form it takes does not remain an unnecessary facet of the beautiful game.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...