The ref badgering.
Most of you complain about it and the players that are most notorious for it.
But this is what happens when a team, in this case Madrid, decides it does not want to play straight up. And I don’t blame them – I’d certainly do the same. Because if you play toe-to-toe, it’s likely you’ll get raped on.
When a team is outclassed, there are several ways to try and get a result “cleanly”, but the odds are still heavily stacked against you. So if you want to further improve those chances, you mix in some dirtiness – also read as disruption of play.
Not only do you prevent your opponent from getting into any flow or rhythm, but you introduce a deeper level of psychological games which can effect even the best professionals.
Ah yes …
The dirty side of the beautiful game.
Maybe it’s hard to appreciate without having played, I don’t know.
The foul exaggerations …
The ref badgering …
Certainly hard to appreciate if you’ve been bred with the American or English mentality.
Heh, on what grounds do the American’s stand that they claim to have a greater “appreciation” or “respect” for the sport? Some moral, self-righteous one? Please. It’s nothing less than ignorance. The English? Well, what the hell have they accomplished in the last 10 million years?
And it’s not like these two don’t have their healthy share of infractions anyways.
Or maybe you just fundamentally believe the game should be more physical like MLS.
“Play on you say!!”
Then later don’t complain when Zakuani and Ferreira incidents occur.
I know this is an inflammatory issue lots of people don’t agree with me on, and that’s fine. Whatever. Like it or not, I’m here to tell you how it is!
The teams and players that want to play the beautiful game in its purest, cleanest form, will fight for it. They will not leave it to the judgement of referees! It’s as simple as that. They want to influence how the game is called. They want a player’s sense and interpretation of justice.
Ref badgering and foul exaggerations to try and get a tighter game called and possible expulsion of opponents for disruption of play and dirty tactics.
And in the context of a clasico with emotions at peak levels, all this get’s amplified.
The hope being that the better team on the day will win. And this time, it worked out for Barca. This is the penalty Madrid pays, knowing full well this could be the outcome, for playing “anti-futbol”.
Would they have been penalized without Barca players exaggerating and rushing the ref, which by the way Real did as well?
Who knows? But what I do know is that players will not entrust referees with the game – not now, not ever! That’s just the way it is. Try to understand it, and learn to embrace it. This is the sport we love.
The outrage Americans and Brits feel is purely cultural.
I had dinner with a Italian colleague who explained their point-of-view. It basically comes down to the game within the game, what can you get away with, does the defender do something stupid that allows the foul to appear valid? If so, the Italian view is that the defender would be at fault, not the diver.
As far as Madrid-Barça goes, I believe that the whole thing comes down to Mourinho. Gaurdiola decided that he needed to fight fire with fire, and respond to Mourinho’s manipulation of the game with the same tactic. The end result is a bit of terrible spectacle, but the natural winner take all nature of things makes it completely rational. The Anglo-American perspective is the irrational one.
I’d just note that we have examples of the same principles in basketball (selling the foul, i.e., flopping), and feigning injury in (gridiron) football to slow down the Oregon offense. Never mind the serial diving of Rooney, Gerrard, and Charlie Davies, divers aren’t cheaters they are winners, winning through acting convincing enough to fool the referee.
Let’s be clear the viscous tackles that break legs and threaten careers are a much greater stain on the game. This is the true anti-futbol with brutality snuffing out skill. In MLS and EPL this sort of approach is celebrated as being tough, macho and the proper way while skill and thought (tactical nous) is seen as foreign and suspicious.
Anglo-American sensibilities don’t see it that way, just look at the attitudes toward violence in entertainment. Violence is tolerated and even glorified.
Gary Kleiban says
The “game within the game” indeed! Funny how an Italian understands … now there’s a country that has accomplished things in the sport – World Class players, World Class coaches, & Titles.
On the mark with everything else!
I gotta tell ya, this topic pisses me off.
Well said, the both of you. What you have described applies to many athletes in many sports in that situation. It is called “competing”.
I am quite amused, but not surprised, by the torrent of visceral condemnation of Barcelona’s victory, most of all by Anglo-Saxon journalists. How long has all the bile been building up, I wonder? Is it the frustration in knowing that the blood sport that was soccer in another era is not aging well? Or is it the ignorance of being one of the few who don’t realize it yet?
Soccer has evolved in the last 20 years, and it will continue to do so. Who wants to come along, and who wants to stay behind in the 1960’s?
And, guess what: in 10 years, it will be evolution beyond the current attacking, possession-oriented <> Latin/Dutch hybrid.
Wake up, gentlemen!
Gary Kleiban says
Even though the stupidities said about “diving” have been around forever, I think you’ve hit on a truth with this particular game.
I believe you’re right with your comment:
“How long has the bile been building up?”
There is always a backlash to anything ultra-successful or ultra-admired. It’s only a matter of time. I think we’re on the verge, or are going through the initial stages, of a Barcelona backlash.
Gary,I am with you on the point you made that it was Mourinho’s fault for forcing Pep’s players to have to resort to over sell fouls. Watching the Copa Del Rey match, I saw the other end of the spectrum, where Mou’s men were allowed the latitude by the ref’s to play an overly physical game. Maybe Mou’s media games had to some degree, influenced both games.The bottom line is, that it is a shame that a team super laden with the best offensive talent in the world, would have to resort to the tactics Mou imposed.This time it blew-up in his face.
Gary Kleiban says
It does suck Bob, but it’s an integral part of the game.
I would much prefer to watch a clean match, but i understand and feel the alternative. That’s all I’m asking of people … TO UNDERSTAND and have a deeper and more intimate appreciation … instead of being ignorant.
Because when people whine about the diving and all the “anti-sporting theatrics”, it demonstrates their ignorance and how far behind the learning curve they are.
Diving is cheating. Plain and simple. It’s cheating in soccer, just like it’s cheating in any other sport. It’s unsportsmanlike and that is why the fans do not like it.
Real’s approach to that match was fairly disgraceful, but it does not justify diving/embellishment.
Physical play – within the confines of the games rules – should not be punished. Physical play outside of the rules must be punished. In recent years FIFA has actually done a good job of reviewing physical play and suspending players for “dirty” challenges. I hope they enact a similar policy for reviewing diving.
On a personal note, your comments indicating that Americans are ignorant soccer fans is offensive and across the line. I have been playing this game for 30 years. I have played with many different cultures and made it a point to understand each cultures unique approach and style to the game – and my game is far better because of it. Understand and appreciate the subleties and benefits of the English and American styles, as you call them, before you go on a another rant like this, because otherwise you just come across as a hipocrate.
Gary Kleiban says
Even though I fervently disagree, I thank you for your contribution.
First I need to say that there is a very broad grey area as to what is a dive and what is not. With no contact obviously in the affirmative. But that’s an entirely different and very lengthy debate.
More to your verdict of cheating and its lack of justification…
You have a very idealistic and rigid view that countless fans share, but it is one that can not exist with the current incarnation of the game. Measures would have to be taken within the laws of the game, or in the way the game is refereed, for things to change.
Until that time I absolutely understand and agree with what the players are doing. They are protecting themselves and believe it or not, they are helping regulate the integrity of the game. It’s also interesting to note, that while you are in the majority of fans – and yes, in my experience overwhelmingly American and English – that condemn these actions, that is not the position held by the majority of high level professional coaches and players around the globe. In addition, it’s also interesting that FIFA does not take a hard line on this topic. Hmmm …
As the game exists, these things are fundamentally and intrinsically woven into the fabric of the sport. It is “part of the game”, and it most definitely serves a legitimate purpose in the eyes of the players, coaches, and those fans who understand – regardless what that little rule book says.
Again, players will not fully entrust referees with their personal well-being or their perception of the integrity of the game (ie justice).
Finally, this blog, for the most part is not going to be politically correct. There is more than enough side-stepping, sugar-coated, innocuous narratives out there. And it does us no good. If I view Americans, in general, are ignorant on this or that topic, and I feel that is the way I need to express my view, then that’s what coming out.
In truth, the entire premise of the blog rests on the notion that US Soccer at all levels can not produce a quality product because of its rampant ignorance. Hence the goal of education…
Where to begin…
First off being condescending is not an affective form of education. Your original post came across that way. Your response post took a far more objective tone and as a result was far more meaningful to this reader. Im not asking you to be PC, but I would urge you to stick to that approach. Enough said about that.
I appreciate your views on this topic, but I disagree with many of them. Staying down for a few seconds after a hard foul or challege to emphasize that you took a tough hit is perfectly fine. However, Diving for the purpose of tricking a ref into calling a foul when no foul was committed is cheating and should be punished. Players of all size shape and style are guilty of this. I don’t see how such simulation benefits the game or helps the refs in any way.
Physical play may not always be preferable, but it does not “trick” a referee. If such a play is made, the ref is left to decide whether a call should be made based solely on the merit of the challenge. Fair enough. When players start diving the ref has to decipher whether a foul was committed or if the player is just trying to trick the ref into thinking a foul was committed – a more difficult task for the ref. Thus in my view diving does not help the ref but conversely makes it harder for the ref to make the right call.
I also don’t believe simulation makes players any safer or gives them any more protection. Rather it only provokes more physical challenges – ie if I’m going to get called for a foul I might as well foul the diving player and foul him hard. I’ve seen this happen first hand. Heck I’m probably guilty of it and I’m a cool headed dude.
I may be an idealist but the physicality of the game and associated policies should be decided with adult conversations off the field and not player antics on it. Refs performances can and should be continually reviewed to ensure players are properly protected. Antics on the field only cloud the discussion. Case in point, we are talking about diving after the barca-real game when the discussion should be about establishing policies that don’t allow another real-like performance.
JB, Gary and the rest of us are not saying we agree with or condone the playacting. However, it is important to understand that there are legitimate reasons for it. It’s basically a way of protecting yourself, and a way to prevent the other team from running around kicking lumps out of your for 90 minutes, in the Copa final Barca didn’t play act or surround the ref as much and Madrid was able to be ruthless goons going unpunished. I’m not saying I agree with the diving and harassing of referees, and it does take away from the beautiful game, but this wouldn’t be necasarry if Madrid didn’t use their overly physical brutish tactics, it’s the only way for players to protect themselves. On top of that, you mention how ref’s are doing a good job now of suspending players for physical play, to me this is only true when a player gets severely injured and that’s exactly why skillful players tend to play act. If they get fouled really hard but don’t roll around a few times, the ref just moves on because they weren’t hurt. A rash challenge is a rash challenge regardless of whether the player that got tackled is injured or not, and until tackles consistently get punished when players aren’t injured I don’t see either side of the coin changing much, players will continue to foul rashly, and in return players will play act a bit. It does stink, but it goes two ways, and again I’m not saying I agree with it but there are very legitimate reasons for it.
Whether we are talking about diving or overly physical play, it is outside the accepted rules of the game.
On the one hand you have “fraud” committed to win favor with the referee. Sometimes it is to get a minor foul punished as a major one to earn a free kick, or perhaps “sell the foul”. It gets worse when no foul has taken place at all, and the foul is given. The stakes are higher when cards are involved especially red. The whole thing revolves around the discretion of the referee in deciding whether the foul was worthy of awarding a kick.
Physical play is no different. The level of allowable physical play is dictated by the referee. Some referees allow very little physical play, while others operate under the “no blood, no foul” principle, and playing the ball will earn you the right to commit almost any level of mayhem. Again, it is the human element of the referee’s judgement at the heart of the dispute.
In a real sense the reaction to these issue is purely and utterly cultural. It goes to the heart of what one thinks about sport and the concept of “fairness”. Does one consider victory at all cost, or is there satisfaction in playing the game well? Does one consider physical play to be playing the game well? In most of the UK and USA, the opinion that overly physical play is equivalent to playing the game well.
The problem is that the rest of the World does not agree, and the competitiveness of those favoring physical style of play has been severely compromised. Skill and intelligence are now the medium of success is soccer. Simulation (i.e., diving, selling the foul) are the more usual tool for the skillful and intelligent to skirt the rules of the game and influence the referee.
The real issue is that this is done explicitly by a player, while the allowance for overly physical play is implicit. The player commits to the physical play and the referee judges. Smart players will slowly up the ante in physical play until the referee provides evidence that the limit has been reached. For a good number of contests between a skillful team and one with more physicality, this is a key metric for the match; what is the level of physical play to be tolerated? It varies from referee to referee and country to country. The nature of the game hinges on the balance between skill and physicality (or violence).
The first leg of Barça-Madrid in the Champion’s League was a direct result of the conditions from the Copa Del Rey final where Madrid’s physical play allowed them to neutralize Barça’s skill to some extent. Barça could not let that happen again, and we see the result. It highlights a problem with finals, often a referee will let a lot more go and the quality of the play will suffer greatly.
The whole World saw this with the World Cup Final (and the Dutch were banking on this trend). The MLS final was another example of this “principle” in action. Referees keep their cards in their pocket and games spiral out of control. Honestly speaking, what would have been worse, De Jong staying on the pitch after putting his spikes in Alonso’s chest or a straight red? In my view, the Dutch were counting on Webb to keep 11 men on the pitch, and they should have been punished by seeing a man sent off. It would have been a more fitting way for the game to end.
Gary Kleiban says
I can’t add anything Bill. It’s all accurate.
Particularly the cultural. I agree with something that’s been known for a long time and that Hugo Gatti recently reiterated:
“Al fútbol se juega como se vive.”
“You play the way you live.”
short passes says
Gary — couldn’t agree more with all of your comments. What so many US born and bred soccer players don’t realize is the extent to which they have absorbed the English approach to football — physical, mental and psychological. A soccer associate of mine from 20 years ago had a saying which sums up the English approach — “If you can’t play soccer, whack’em!”