First things first – Goodbye Orange! See ya later Netherlands – yet again, you will not get a chance to play in the final and for me, that’s because your unethical sense of play finally caught up with you again. Arjen Robben your admitting to diving, actually diving and dramatic falls finally didn’t earn you that beloved penalty kick. Robin Van Persie your antics and crap attitude wasn’t enough to get past the Argentines either. That’s just karma if you ask me. It’s a shame that a small country who’s never won couldn’t win the World Cup this year, but it’s better than having a bunch of unethical turds winning it.
It’s clear by now that I’m not a fan of the Netherlands national soccer team. I don’t care for how they play one iota. That said, the ethics question doesn’t solely rest on how they play. I was stunned after the Netherlands/Mexico game and then the Netherlands/Costa Rica game how some of the commentators and analysts responded to the infamous penalty kick that helped beat Mexico. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that former U.S. player Alexi Lalas seems to think that diving is okay. What? Come again. He didn’t phrase it quite that bluntly but he doesn’t have an issue with a player drawing a foul. I can’t imagine how a defender can possibly think that’s a good tactic. In a YouTube video I came across, Lalas actually says that without diving and embellishment the game would be boring. What?!? I’m blown away. A genuinely well played game doesn’t need embellishment and certainly not diving to be interesting or fun to watch. I’m disappointed to hear such commentary from a former U.S. player and defender.
For me the problem with diving or embellishment, particularly a team’s defensive third of the field, is that makes it more difficult for defenders to do their job. How can a defender be able to properly defend if they have to be concerned with someone choosing to take a dive in order to get a penalty kick? The penalty box eats up, I’m guessing, about 75 to 80 percent of the defensive third. That’s a lot of space where a direct kick can be given. When one is awarded in that space it’s a penalty kick – a free shot at a one-on-one with a keeper and usually a sure goal for a team. All players know this, which is why diving in the box is such a crappy move; to me that’s a clear manipulation of the game in order to get a cheap goal. If you’re really so good, you don’t have to take a dive or use unethical tactics to get a goal.
I realize I may be making mountains of molehills but when unethical behavior (diving as a means of manipulating the game unfairly in my opinion) can be found even in my favorite sport, it’s a bit unnerving. I realize that diving and embellishment have become part of the game but that doesn’t mean I think it should be, unlike Lalas. Maybe I’m too old fashioned; maybe I expect too much of people and their behavior.
Soccer, or football in other places in the world, used to be called the beautiful game because of the ebb and flow and creativity needed to win. How can it still be that game when there’s diving and other questionable tactics are being used to win? Is that not cheating? I can’t help but feel that what we’re seeing now is really the ugly step-sister of the beautiful game. It’s really unfortunate. I had such a great time watching many of these matches and the officiating really was much improved but I did find at times someone like Robben could get a call his way but someone else doing the same thing couldn’t. I dislike the idea that “superstars” can get away with that behavior and others cannot. In my opinion, none of it should be allowed – superstars or not. It’s changing the game for the worse.
Editors note: I started writing this before the third place game between Brazil and Netherlands; just finally finished it. So if the timing seems off – that would be why.