Selling Yourself and The Game…Short!

by Philip MacDonald | Last updated

Diving is cheating.  Either way you approach this argument, players that dive are not only cheating, but they are poisoning the game of soccer.  Why do it then? Unfortunately, some players will dive to the ground crying in agony (only to get up seconds later pain free) in order to persuade the referee to make a call in their teams favour. It is in these instances that the entire atmosphere of the game itself and its image changes…for the worse. I am encouraging all players not to take this route of selling yourself and the game short. 

After having played against divers and dirty players and watching those alike on tv I decided blogging on this topic would be appropriate. It is strange that diving and faking being hurt and being a dirty player often go hand in hand. It’s a confusing combination but players like that are out there. The good news is you don’t have to be this player! But if you are, the reality is, you are hurting your own team with this behavior and the game itself. And you will also be remembered (if at all) for the wrong reasons.

Many players feel that their cultural upbringing gives them a reason to dive and sell the game itself. They feel that because diving is done back home then it must be accepted worldwide. This is not the case! It does not matter where you are from in the world, diving and selling yourself to the referee in an effort to have the opposing player booked does not help the overall game. Other reasons for diving include hoping to receive a penalty kick or free kick if the foul is committed around the 18-yard box. If a player already has a yellow card, his opponents might use this against him and dive at the next challenge he makes hoping for a double yellow resulting in a red card. Whatever your motive is diving hurts the game itself. Be strong mentally and don’t get sucked into this style of play.

Relying solely on skill and no grit: I have played with a number of talented soccer players who were of the mindset that their skill alone would be enough to win. However, this is not the case. All leagues and at all levels of play require some level of physical play. You must incorporate this into your style of play, no matter your level of skill. It does not mean you have to rely on being a physical player at all times but it has to be there (just in case). Think of it like one of your tools that you can use when need be. Cristiano Ronaldo in his first few years at Manchester United used to dive all the time. Mind you he was being kicked, tackled and physically beaten up the majority of the time. As a result of this abuse he bulked up in the gym and eventually stopped diving. Once he realized that referees would not make the call (even if they should have) he stopped diving. Diving is no longer part of his game. Now he is known for being a winner, a fantastic dribbler and goal scorer. Cristiano Ronaldo would never have become the world’s best player if he continued diving.

A spin off to diving and faking being hurt is that players then become violent and dirty. It becomes part of how some players play and in the long run hurts them and their team. I have played with dirty players and players that play hard. I much rather prefer the hard working tough player for a teammate! The dirty player often gets caught in bad tackles producing yellow cards; creates enemies and rarely contributes in producing goals. In essence they become a liability on the field. Not only that but they take the joy out of the game because now you are constantly looking over your shoulder expecting the worst. Take note that dirty players never go far in their careers at all levels of play. Don’t be this player!

In today’s game you must be physically fit. The best players take care of themselves in every sense of the word. You must have excellent cardio and be strong. Working out in the gym should be part of your conditioning.  Read the blog on weight training for soccer players. You don’t need to become so large in muscle mass that you can’t run anymore but having the physical strength is now required to play at a higher level. And don’t think that skinny professional soccer players don’t do strength lifting. Just because they may be skinny does not mean they are not strong. Use your strength in a positive way to help your team. Win those 50/50 battles; head balls; and open play challenges for the ball. Be strong on the ball and never lose control of it. You can be a skillful player who is crafty yet strong and never have to dive, play dirty or look to the referee for assistance.  

Watch this highlight video of the embarrassment these players bring to themselves, their teammates, their club and the game itself. It is sad to say that some world class players are seen in the clip including Rivaldo. However, with Rivaldo people fail to remember that he scored 6 goals in the 2002 World Cup meanwhile many remember his infamous fall to the ground clutching his face as though he’d been shot after a ball was lightly hit kicked at his thigh in frustration by a Turkish player.

When you look back on your career you want to remember the good times which includes the positive things you brought to your team and the achievements you made. If being a dirty player, a diver and complainer are the core things you developed your game around then this is what other people will remember you for in the long run.

Diving is hurting the game. In order to win over more non soccer fans and for the game to grow in North America, diving has to be cut out of the game. Being hit on the chest, arm or shoulder does not make you lose your footing from under you.  Stay on your feet unless you are brought to the ground by a serious tackle. Finally, more often referees are beginning to caution players for diving and simulation. Remember, the best players play tough; they tackle hard, play with heart and passion. They want to win and will do everything possible to help their team win the match. 

Watch this video to see the brighter side and talent the game of soccer can showcase. None of these players needed to sell themselves or the game in order to create these moments of brilliance.

Leave a Reply