The A to Z Of Modern Football: D is for Diving


Diving. Few things stir the contempt of football fans the world over than a theatrical dive. Greg Theoharis continues his A to Z of Modern Football. Today on the blog, D is for Diving.


The comparison of football with the theatre is something that is often made. It’s easy to see how the intense drama of dogged comebacks and the acts of an ever-revolving cast of characters that the game produces is the equal of anything that came out of David Mamet or Samuel Beckett’s heads.

However, the parallels are often made in relation to the good and the romantic aspects of the game. The greatest link to stagecraft that football has to offer should really be made with what we commonly refer to as the game’s ‘dark arts’.

Personally, I love diving. I find the exquisite execution of a full-blown loss of gravitational hold, one of the most balletic things you can see in any given match. You can slow down Zidane and Xavi all you want, overlay some vaguely classical string concerto over the images but nothing comes close to the swan dives and pirouettes that the purveyors of the dive are truly capable of. If there's an extra couple of rolls added in for extra measure after its execution, more’s the better.

The issue of diving is not a particularly new phenomenon but it seems to be routinely denounced these days because, shock horror, the British player has gradually embraced it as part his natural game. “It’s just not the done thing, is it?” bemoan diving’s critics as if they were some moral guardians of Victorian gentleman rules. Others just say, “it’s not fair” and then promptly threaten to go indoors and take their ball with them thus spoiling everybody’s fun.

But in the end, that’s exactly what football is. Fun. And just as the theatre relies upon heroes rescuing damsels in distress, so does it require both its villains and its fools. Will anybody really think anything of Michael Owen other than that goal and a catalogue of injuries now he’s retired? When held up against the ‘crimes’ against football that Diego Maradona committed, it’s pretty easy to see why the latter’s exploits will always be retold. And he loved a good tumble too.

When you look at it, it’s just so much more fun playing the villain. Most actors would rather don tights to play Iago than Romeo. Just as many of us probably rooted for Wile E Coyote and preferred playing at being Darth Vader when we were kids.

And as for where the ‘funny’ comes in, instead of the usual dirge about introducing video replays for contentious goals, we should really be lobbying for playbacks of players diving. Imagine. Didier Drogba goes down as if poleaxed by a rampaging herd of wildebeest and then has to endure the excruciating embarrassment of watching his amateur dramatics up on several jumbotrons while supporters laugh and jeer and hold up scorecards for his pathetic efforts.

Such a measure would force the diver to refine his repertoire of tumbles and turns and perhaps ultimately elevate a much maligned part of the modern game into the expression of pure theatrical endeavour it deserves to be considered as. Then we can grumble on about how diving used to be a working-class sport, blah, blah, blah.



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I have a sofa. I watch football on it. Then I write. Every Sunday.