Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Of dives and men

From an email:
You failed to mention that Beckham dove on his penalty kick ;)

C'mon, you know the truth...

Truth? This reader probably can't handle the truth that the Beckham PK was about as legitimate as Robbie Rogers going down so quickly in the box from a Klein bump. Both players were fouled, in my opinion, both lightly. Both made a meal of it.

But isn't that part of the game - to call the ref's attention and try to ensure a call? If Paulo Ferreira had gone down after the push by Ballack during the Portugal/Germany match, would the goal scored by Ballack have been called back for the foul? It was a definite push, but the ref missed it. He might not have if Ferreira had made the foul more obvious.

If there is no competitive advantage for playing through a foul, a player actually does his team a disservice by trying to do so instead of making sure the contact is seen. It's contingent on the ref to make calls accurately and consistently.

I reserve the term "diving" for non-contact flopping, complete pretending that a player was hit. I despise that. However, I take the exaggeration of actual fouls as something of a necessary evil, considering the game's structure. I'm also loath to judge how much a player is actually embellishing, because a kick on a knee or stepping on a player's foot may not look like much, but completely ruins a scoring chance and can, depending on the bone or nerve hit, hurt like hell. A stubbed toe can actually hurt more than a fractured wrist (I say this from experience, as I didn't realize for days my wrist was injured, but I know the moment I stub a toe).

I've gone over this with others before - and at least some of it seems cultural, as in some countries, playing through fouls is considered a badge of honor, while in others, provoking contact and calling attention to it is considered an art form. It's part of the game, however, just like coaches and fans will always defend their own - "Our star gets hacked mercilessly" while always looking skeptically at any player on another squad who goes down. That's soccer.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a neutral observer, there is no doubt in my mind that Rogers was fouled, and Beckham dove.

CACuzcatlan said...

Contact can equal dive. See Dida. Worst. Dive. Ever.

A.C. said...

Well, true, getting hit in the knee and then clutching your face isn't even close to the reality of a foul, but anon makes my point for me - both Rogers and Beckham had contact from defenders in the box - it's a matter of personal preference which was a foul foul, it seems. Neutral or otherwise.

The Hammer said...

It's interesting how something which essentially translates into 'cheating' can be so discussed. Blanco's an artist in that he doesn't often dive. The man knows how to generate contact, but also to loosen up the body right at the moment of impact to soften up said contact and still go down and get the call.

A.C. said...

I still don't see how exaggerating contact, provoking it and such, is "cheating", but fouling a player, ala Ballack isn't frowned upon as much. That's considered a "smart foul" a lot of the time. Why the double standard?

Anonymous said...

is everythiing okay, ac? you seem a little, uh, flustered?

A.C. said...

Flustered? By what?
I'm working on an article and just popping in occasionally to add a comment here, so I'm multitasking, but that's par for the course for me.

Beax Speax said...

I don't think there are any 'neutrals' when it comes to discussing anything related to Beckham/MLS/Galaxy-just my opinion.

Jon said...

Not that they ever really showed a good replay on TV, but it seemed debatable to me whether the Crew defender even touched Beckham at all. At least Klein actually did make contact with Rogers.

Not sure if you've seen the Donovan quote about the penalty, but it's not a good sign when your own teammate thinks the call was questionable.

As far as there being no impartial observers, I absolutely agree...including refs. Don't tell me you think anyone besides Beckham or maybe Donovan gets that call.

A.C. said...

I have Donovan's quote below in the "LD leftovers" - he basically said that he wasn't sure if either Rogers or Beckham was really fouled, which isn't singlind out Becks at all. Plus, Donovan said he didn't really see Beckham's hit. I did watch the replay more than once (Get MLS Live!). Beckham was hit, not much, but on the other hand, Klein got more ball than Marshall did on the respective plays. Beckham basically touched the ball past Marshall, so Chad had no chance on the ball, then moved forward, so that they knocked knees. As far as who gets the call, if anything, I think Geiger's logic was that if he called a PK as soft as Robbie's, he had to call Beck's contact as well.

A.C. said...

And I meant O'Rourke, not Marshall, as the guy who fouled Beckham.

Benjamin said...

Bravo! AC Bravo! well said all six or seven times and the bottom line is that any pro will tell you that you are absoluely correct. And put some shoes on those toes.

papa bear said...

That's funny because I thought Ferreira made far more of a meal of that push than it actually was. I mean, it's people in the box on a corner. There is going to be some jostling.
Did Micha make a little space? Sure but nothing that should have been a foul in that situation.
Rogers and Beckham both were fouled. They were tiny fouls and they embellished a bit and got lucky. 10 other refs probably don't call it. Right day, right time I guess. Different from diving Cristiano Ronaldo style IMO.

ghostwriter said...

It's definitely cultural.

I grew up, not on soccer but American football where no matter how hard you got hit you tried to stay upright and, if you went down, bounced right back up (if you even remotely could), tried not to show anything, and trotted back to the huddle as normally as possible regardless of whether you could see straight or remember your name. As a result I was conditioned to think staying up is good and getting back up is good as opposed to the soccer alternatives.

To watch the soccer guys fall over at the slightest provocation or, worse yet, stay down if the foul's not called as if injured when actually fine (like the Italians did v. Spain, at least twice resulting in stoppages while the Spaniards were building an attack) is probably my least favorite thing about the "beautiful game". [Not to pick on soccer entirely, we're seeing the falling over part of the process in hockey, too and I REALLY hate it there.]

It may be an accepted tactical part of the game, but it's my least favorite for sure. It also seems, in some instances, like an "ends justifies the means" type tactic which I'm not sure I can agree with in sport generally. But maybe that's too philosophical. At minimum, I think it disrupts the flow of the game which is, in fact, the "beautiful" thing about soccer.

Anonymous said...

what i hate about the EPL is that so many fouls are not called. i hate it because it ruins the flow of the game. guys get pushed all over the place and lose the ball like crazy very rarely do i see a spain or argentina style hold the ball forever (nah,nah,nah,nah) play. in latin america they know guys will fall with any contact(which means its a foul; any contact = foul!)so they don't deliberalety foul and the game flows better.

Vapid said...

I think there's an important difference between the Ferreira play and the Rogers/Beckham plays. Unlike Rogers and Beckham, Ferreira was on defense in a situation where he had to make a play.

If a defender fails to make a play (like Ferreira did), the chance of a goal being scored against his team often is quite high. Thus, even playing up the foul increases the chance of a foul being called, that chance is never 100% (and usually doesn't really approach it). Thus, the risk (in terms of chance of a goal being given up) of playing up a foul (which generally makes the person playing up the foul unable to make a play) also is quite significant. Therefore, it makes sense for the defender to try to play through the foul and make a play.

On the other hand, many times when an offensive player is fouled, it is far from a certainty that a goal would be scored if the player played through the foul. This is certainly true of both the Rogers and Beckham penalties. Thus, playing up the foul (and making it a near certainty that a goal won't be scored in the run of play), is the better option -- it is more likely to result in a goal than fighting through the foul.

So, it makes sense that offensive players are more likely to exaggerate fouls; they have more to gain and less to lose.