How much time do today’s soccer players spend practising their dives and pretending to be injured?

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Real players. Jack Charlton and Denis Law at the famous Leeds United Manchester United bust up in 1965

How much time do professional football players spend practising their diving and feigning injury?

I watch a lot of rugby. Eighteen stone men crashing into each other at full speed. Guys and girls in full flight, brought down by a tackle or a hand trip. The occasional bang of an elbow or a shoulder resulting in a player lying on the ground recovering.

I watch Gaelic football where men and women come into full contact a high speed and bodies go crashing to the ground before, inevitably and generally speaking immediately, they rejoin the fray.

I love watching hurling (never had the courage to play it much. I retreated to the safety of rugby!) and see men with sticks competing for the sliothar and often getting the scelp of a hurl on the hand or the head and carrying on regardless.

Soccer?

Well, a tiny tap on the back of the foot and a player goes down like he’s been shot, rolls over three or four times and then, while grimacing (for the benefit of the referee and the cameras) before getting up and limping away as if a bone has been broken or a tendon snapped.

And referees put up with it. Commentators and even former players make remarks like “there was contact.” Yeh. Contact like there is between a butterfly and a petal.

It’s actually quite sickening. And it’s not occasional. It’s every damned game.

If it wasn’t for the ridiculous laws of libel in this country, I’d give you a list of players here who are the worst or, in their view probably, the best at this kind of cheating. Because that’s what it is. Cheating.

Some Irish and, indeed, former Irish, are past masters at it.

I really don’t get why it’s not penalised. I don’t understand why the soccer authorities appear to not just permit, but encourage this behaviour.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, they can have it.

I loved soccer when the likes of Denis Law and Johnny Aston and big Bill Foulkes played it. When men like Big Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter asked for and gave no quarter. And When Norman “Bite Your Legs” Hunter tackled an opponent, he knew all about it.

But look back, and you’ll see there was little or no play acting back then.

Soccer’s gone to hell.

So it’s a good job Big Jack has gone to heaven.

 

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