Do it. Don’t say it

Following the Serie A match between Cagliari and Internazionale, won 2-0 by the Sardinians, something extraordinary happened. Two goal hero and match winner, Mauricio Pinilla, confessed that he ‘dived’ to win the penalty to open the scoring and sway the match comprehensively in favour of the home team. Pinilla said that as he controlled the ball in the box he “felt the touch (of Inter defender Matias Silvestre and) of course I dived.” A fairly damming statement from the Chilean striker. He went on to say that strikers needed to be “smart to earn it (the penalty)” and that ” whenever you get touched in the box, it is always a penalty.” At first view this is a somewhat crass and unsportsmanlike statement from Pinilla, that he consciously and purposely looked for the penalty and when an opportunity presented itself he ensured he made the most of it. But is it so bad that he has simply said what everyone who watches football anywhere already knows?

Mauricio Pinilla: Too honest for his own good?

Because of his outspoken honesty the incident has been bought to the attention of the Calcio who will review the incident (something that can be done after the fact in Italy) and decide whether Pinilla deserves a suspension for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’. I have heard many fans express outrage at Pinilla for cheating his way to a goal but I personally think that his admittance of the fact was wonderful. I am sick of hearing players say they didn’t dive or make a meal of contact when it is blatantly obvious they did. Any striker who makes it to this level MUST have the skills to identify situations where a penalty could occur and when an opportunity presents itself, make sure that the incident is exacerbated to the maximum to ensure it captures the attention of the referee. It is often said that players should try and stay on their feet and fight for the ball when they are fouled in the box, let the referee see the fouls for what they are. It all sounds nice in theory but unfortunately players who do this will often find they are not awarded the penalty they deserve. They will find that play will continue and, in many cases, their efforts to avoid the foul or ride it out rather than go down will result in loss of balance, position or opportunity.

Virtually all top players are able to dive on demand. Here Gareth Bale throws himself to the ground a little prematurely.

Until FIFA and the Football Associations across the globe decide it will bring in post match reviews, video analysts who will look at incidents like dives and hand out suspensions after the fact, there is very little that can be done. Players are paid to do the best for their team, strikers are paid to make the most out of any opportunity they get to score goals. Pinilla should not be punished or scorned for what he has said or even what he has done. In this writers opinion he should be patted on the back and congratulated for being honest about his trade. The fact that this honesty is even being considered for a suspension smacks of the grossest hypocricy. Gamesmanship of this kind the the great white whale in the room, everyone knows it exists, everyone watches it on their screen every week but dare anyone inside the game speak about it or, heaven forbid, confess to taking part in its dark arts, then it is as if pandoras box has been opened.

Robban goes to great lengths to win his side a free kick. Representing his country here he shows he has perfected the high rise dive.

Despite being an Inter supporter myself I hope that Pinilla is not punished in any way for his outspokenness. Football cannot punish the players for speaking about what everyone sees week in week out. It is up to the people who control the game to make sure these things cannot happen, through post match reviews, better refereeing etc rather than punishing the players who partake in these practises for saying they exist. And for those ‘football supporters’ who are feigning anger at what Pinilla has said I challenge you to look at the strikers in you favourite team and tell me honestly that they would not do the same when the stakes are so high because any striker worth anything would.

Platini and his friends claim they do not like diving but Platini himself was know to exacerbate the contact on occasion himself.