I think it’s become pretty clear in the last couple of days that there’s only going to be one winner for idiocy amongst the 736 players who have been in Brazil representing their countries at the World Cup. Luis Suarez just can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. In the last few days, the media has unsurprisingly been saturated with stories, discussion and the usual humorous responses to the Uruguayan vampire’s latest indiscretion (a selection of which you can find at the bottom of this post).
Meanwhile, there are lots of naughty – if marginally less criminal/disgraceful/unbelievable depending on your viewpoint – tactics used in most games by players, that I would like to see kicked out of the beautiful game. Some of these guys are footballing gods, but even some of the best players are amongst the worst for these annoying habits.
Footballers are obviously well-known, and widely criticised, for diving and generally overdramatising things on the pitch. I won’t go on about it too much because we all know what I’m getting at. If I was a referee, any player who did any form of log roll would be yellow carded for melodrama. A social media statistician posted this on Twitter this week:
This suggests Brazil have been the biggest injury fakers so far, but Honduras have spent the most time rolling around on the floor (ironic given that their main strategy has seemed to be kicking the other team as much as possible).
In addition to the injury feigning, the number of handballs that go unpunished astounds me. It appears that players who decide they have been fouled have the right to grab hold of the football and stop play before the referee has blown his whistle. If you want to pick up the ball, play rugby (although you’ll have to toughen up a bit lads).
Then there’s the constant appealing. Every time the ball goes off the pitch, any player even vaguely close by immediately sticks their hand up in the air to claim it’s their ball. It wouldn’t surprise me to see someone boot the ball off the side of the pitch with nobody within ten yards of them and still attempt to claim the throw in. Whilst we are on the subject of ridiculous appeals, the “I got the ball” gesture is another irritating one. Firstly because the “ball” actually turns out to be another player’s leg most of the time. And secondly because just about poking the ball with your big toe two seconds after completely pole-axing an opponent does not mean it isn’t a foul.
Towards the end of games in particular, the amount of time-wasting is also quite amazing. The statutory 30 seconds of added time for goals and substitutions doesn’t get close to making up for the antics of many players during the final moments of a match. A player being substituted trudges off at 0.2mph, shaking hands with as many team mates as possible and of course detours to thank the referee – the guy he has spent most of the last 85 minutes swearing at. Given the rolling substitutions in hockey (which can occur over 60 times per match in international games), these shenanigans seem more than a little unnecessary.
The goalkeepers also indulge in some silly time-wasting in the final minutes. Run of the mill catches suddenly start to be followed by a dramatic fall to the ground and a prolonged cuddle with the ball. Goalies get away with far too much in general if you ask me. Even the slightest contact with a keeper on a cross or corner is usually given as a foul against the attacking team. These would never be given as penalties if it was the other way around, so why are they so over-protected? That said, goalies can also provide the most excitement for any corner kick in the closing minutes of a game. You know a team is desperate to score when their goalkeeper legs it 90 yards to join in with the fun. I don’t think the historical ratios of goalkeepers scoring headers are probably that high, but it doesn’t half add to the excitement in a 0-0 draw you’ve stuck with for 89 minutes.
As I said in my last entry, this World Cup has been brilliant. The goals have continued to flow, a few unexpected teams have progressed from the group stages and players like Messi, Neymar and Robben are shining on the greatest stage. The refereeing has also been extremely good so far. But these little tricks and bits of gamesmanship by top footballers are an irritation that niggles away at me. Let’s hope for more drama in Brazil, but with a little less of the melodramatics.
A tasty selection of Suarez’s best bites (sorry)…
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