Good Ol’ Fashioned Rant: On Diving And Why ‘Contact’ Is A Word I’ve Come To Despise

Chris Wright

8th, February 2012


By Chris Wright

“There’s contact…juuuuust…hold on…wait a second…there.”

Ne’er does a week go by without some dime-a-dozen pundit rolling it out. That sodding word. ‘Contact’. A word which is quickly becoming the bane of my very existence. Even to look at it up on the page there, sitting all smarmy and aloof, makes my bile rise and blood to begin to pulse from my tear ducts.

Though I’m at pains to point out that it only causes my vital fluids to leak out through my facial orifices when it’s used in a very specific context. I’m not crazy.

Most recently, last weekend to precise, it was used willy-nilly to absolve both Adam Johnson and Danny Welbeck of any guilt after the pair independently took the conscious decision to fall swooning under the soft, lulling influence of Plummeta: the Greek Goddess of Gravity.

In short, they dived. Like Jacques Cousteau giving Greg Louganis scuba lessons off the coast of Divington-upon-Sea. They both knowingly attempted to cheat. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, in addition to letting gravity take the wheel, both players kicked out a lower limb in the direction of the nearest available heat source – Chris Baird in Johnson’s case, Branislav Ivanovic in Welbeck’s – in order to engineer that seemingly crucial ‘contact’ before their trunks hit the deck.

The Man City winger has since pedalled the old ‘I was only anticipating contact’ defense – which is, of course, utter tripe.

Skip to the 1:38 mark for Johnson’s little ‘anticipation of contact’

Not that this kind of thing is the sole preserve of Messrs. Johnson and Welbeck. Far from it. Indeed, the practice of kicking out legs or dragging feet to ensure contact seems to have been slowly gaining favour with those willing to readily surrender their integrity for at least a few years now – though it’s now becoming worryingly prevalent. I’m talking once-or-twice-a-game prevalent.

The root of the problem (other than the actual ‘simulation’ itself) for me is the use of the word ‘contact’ and the context it’s used therein.

To use Welbeck’s flop against Chelsea as an example; at no point was there enough outside force acting upon him sufficient enough for him to lose his footing. There just wasn’t. He reached the edge of the area, was fully aware of his grid co-ordinates and fell over looking for a penalty because it was easier than trying to carve out a scoring chance. As he went down, he made sure – quite consciously – that he kicked a foot out against Ivanovic to ensure there was…you guessed it, it’s that magic word again…contact. Completely synthetic, absurd, irrelevant contact.

‘THERE WAS CONTACT!’ comes the immediate cry from the gallery.

So bleeding what? He still cheated, didn’t he?

Contact doesn’t, or more precisely, shouldn’t necessarily mean a foul has taken place. There are shades of grey, but it’s trotted out ad infinitum by studious pundits, resolutely partisan managers and clueless armchair lollygaggers alike.

Theoretically at least, football is a contact sport; contact is required, necessary and even demanded in some instances – though it galls me to the down to the plums that the word is routinely aired in an attempt to absolve, let’s face it, cheats of their dive-happy crimes against the spirit of the game.

It all seems to be part of a bigger problem to me, though maybe I’m just paranoid. It’s almost as if football as an organisation, especially in the upper echelons, are trying desperately to create and preserve a veneer of perfection to present to the watching world. As the market grows, the purer the product must seem.

On grandiose stages such as World Cups and the Champions League we regularly see referees now officiating with ridiculously infuriating and finicky standards; doling out yellows for the most inane of offences in a bid to uphold a sheen of sterile, sanitised and clinical football. It’s FIFA-scrutinised conduct which has a definite trickle-down effect through the rest of the football hierarchy.

Players are frequently starting to go down to mask poor touches, naff control and a lack of technical proficiency and being vindicated by a short shrill peep of the referee’s whistle. As soon as the ball squirts away, legs are thrown from underneath and the old ACME sounds.

I’m not calling out a vast global conspiracy here, but it’s like they can’t be seen to make a mistake. Pandering to inadequacy in order to preserve a façade of flawlessly consummate ability is what is it. At least in my eyes.

You trap a ball further than most men can kick one during a Sunday League match – you get the almighty snot torn out of you for the rest of the day by guffawing teammates (bitter, bitter experience). You do it in the Premier League and you get a free-kick in your favour IF you successfully managed to get to ground in time.

That’s just not kosher Eileen.

“Silken hankies you say? Not a bad idea!”

On a similar tack and definitely an offshoot of the whole ‘pandering to inadequacy’ thing, a personal pet peeve of mine is the relatively new-fangled ‘hoof it up the touchline past your marker and then run into him’ technique now employed by useless wingers the world over.

The trick is to remember that you must always throw your hands up in the air as you buffet into your turning opponent and make pleading eye contact with the ref as if to say ‘what the hell is this dim-witted chump playing at?’

The worst part is, it never seems to fail. ‘Phweep‘ goes the whistle.

We’re continually told we’re looking at a clunky full-back failing to read a tricky winger’s cute footwork and/or deal with his pace, when in reality we’re looking at a one-trick pony winger and a poor sod of a full-back who was left with absolutely no chance of getting out of the way.

Does no-one else get riled by this on an almost weekly, almost matchly basis ? It makes me froth with rage, so it does.

I realise I’m just aimlessly ranting now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading several paragraphs ago, but a) it’s incredibly carthartic and b) I need to know I’m not completely alone when it comes to these matters.

I’m no Luddite clogger, far from it. The last thing I want is a return to the days when it was considered perfectly acceptable to dislodge a player’s retinas in the name of man-marking, but there must be a limit to how much physicality you can outlaw and how much simpering you’re willing to allow.

I can’t help but genuinely fear that – by the Qatar World Cup perhaps – a tackle will consist of a defender tugging a silken hanky out of an opponent’s waistband and waving it coyly at the referee, while goals will be awarded for those who ask nicely enough.

Posted in Featured, Opinion

Share this article: Email


  1. Alex says:

    I think the most disturbing term on modern football is ‘interesting project’, used by people like carlo ancelotti when they’re about to manage a club they’ve had no previous interest in but has recently come into lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of money.

    Contact is a bad one though.

  2. Ian says:

    Well put

  3. Alex says:

    The power seems to lie solely with the referees, they must not watch television or read newspapers if they are as unaware of the existance of ‘simulation’ as they seem to be.

    I think if you try to stay up but are physically incapable of remaining on your feet you should get a free kick or penalty.

    All it takes is for one referee to send sergio busquets or daniel sturridge off for going to ground too quickly and i think it would turn a lot of heads.

    I sorely miss pierluigi colina…

  4. MJ says:

    spot on once more mate! keep it up!

  5. SL says:

    Good rant, contact doesnt equal penalty, I just with the morons on MOTD knew that. They think running past a player and kicking out your leg to ensure contact means its a penalty.

    It should be a FK to the opposing side if anyone chooses to go down as its cheating. Even if it was a foul in the 1st place. Same goes for players stopping and appealing to the ref for the slightest of shirt pulls.

  6. __wowza says:

    it’s a matter of precedent.
    if a player takes simulated liberties with a challenge, he gets carded.
    if he goes down easy and no whistles blown, he gets up and jogs on.

    if this happens enough with one ref, just as sure as players switch up their game if they know they can get their opposition easily carded, eventually everyone will wise up that they can’t start pulling this kinda shit.

    on the same level, the FA could be helping matters by going through tapes and handing out bans and fines for simulation. again, precedent. if a player thinks “oh shit, i just got fined two weeks wages for a dive, let’s not do that again” then, you guessed it.. they’ll probably think twice about fucking with the integrity of the match.

    the games evolved so much over the past few decades. there’s camera’s everywhere and camera’s don’t lie. it’s not enough saying that X is a dirty cheat, they need to start bringing the hammer down.

  7. America says:

    This is absurd. Johnson clearly dove, and Bale’s diving against Liverpool also deserves mention. Welbeck diving?! are you watching the video? Ivanovich clearly tries to slide a foot in front of Welbeck as he is running past him, attempting to impede him, which he does by preventing his left foot from following the right, sometimes termed running. You can see Ivanovich even tries to pull out at the very end because he knows its a foul. This clear foul occurs in the box, thus it is a PENALTY. It would be one thing if contact was initiated by Ivanovich beating Welbeck to the ball and shielding him away, or if he actually got a touch on the ball. He had no chance of getting the ball, and slid at him anyways, then right before he is going to make contact, attempts to pull out, but is too late and he takes Welbeck down. Again, not sure what video you’re watching where Welbeck initiates any contact, but its clear he’s trying to keep going to the right to open up a shooting chance, which is why he feints going to the left to begin with.

  8. KF says:

    Another one that riles me up is when a player goes out of their way to avoid a horrific challenge which does not win the ball, only to lose the ball in the process. For example a player hurdles a tackle but in the process loses control of the ball and loses possession. If the player doesn’t get out the way of the tackle he is scythed down (potentially injured) and wins a free kick. However if he makes an attempt to dodge the tackle and subsequently loses the ball he is compensated with nothing. Surely in cases like this free kicks and penalties should be awarded….

  9. Steve K says:

    This is another one of those explanations of the rules that Sky and MOTD seem to have decided is correct, like “Ball to hand”.
    It’s explains a lot when former England internationals seem to have general misunderstanding of the laws of the game.

    As a Chelsea fan, I was annoyed when Welbeck won that penalty, but I was almost as peeved at Sturridge the week before doing a “run into defender and fall over” job against QPR. What next? “The wind pushed me over ref! That’s a foul!”

  10. Chris says:

    @America: I know things like this are utterly subjective, but you’re quite wrong in this instance I’m afraid.

    Ivanovic, seeing he’s about to collide with Welbeck in the area, attempts to pull up and looses his footing slightly – at which point Welbeck consciously opens his left leg towards the slipping Serb while he steps in order to get that all-important CONTACT.

    He cheated.

  11. Steve K says:

    @America: Ivanovic sees he’s not going to make the tackle, and tries to pull out as much as he can. Welbeck’s left leg is clearly not going in a running motion and the last stride before (ahem) contact, and he is just leaving it dangling there until Ivanovic’s leg gets there.
    If Ivanovic hadn’t tried to stop, we wouldn’t have seen this, but as he did it highlights the strange dangling motion Welbeck does.

  12. C7 says:

    to be honest, as long as theres no attempts to get anyone carded i dont care that much. we all play sunday league, centre backs constantly elbow and drag studs down legs and stand on feet etc. if one of them is then stupid enough to make a silly challenge that puts a player in a worse position to score then theyre entitled to stitch up john terry if hes been playing dirty as well. michael owen used to have lumps kicked out of him, so when a defender made a mistake, he’d take advantage regardless of the amount of contact.

    referees also dont have the bottle to give a penalty if a player doesnt hit the deck. ive never actually dived but thats more because i dont have the intelligence for it than any moral standing!

    however the waving of imaginary cards should be banished.

  13. Isaac says:

    @Chris and America

    While I understand where America is coming from, Chris is absolutely correct. Also Welbeck has clearly realized that he’s lost control of the ball and instead of just getting on with the game he goes fishing for a Penalty. It was infuriating to watch.

  14. Burt reynolds says:

    @America, what the hell are you watching?

  15. Pete says:

    The thing that worries me most is how it’s being burned into player’s brains now. In most instances it’s not premeditated, it’s a simple reaction to the contact. That is worrisome to me, the fact that the first thing they think of is to initiate contact and cheat.

    Why are referees so scared to use their power against simulation? I realize how it’s all subjective, but that rule is in place to be enforced. Not a bunch of pansy refs worried about the angry mobs they’ll face or drawing the ire of a big name manager. Sack up, refs and put some fear in the hearts of cheaters.

  16. muppets says:

    @america you’re just wrong. welbeck also dived in the first half under a bosingwa ‘challenge.’ Of course howard webb was probably looking to get utd back in the game.

    The FA need to start with bans/fines awarded to the likes of bale, johnson and welbeck; irrespective of what the ref did during the game and set a president for how such behaviour is treated in our game. Refs also need to stop being drawn in and conned so easily. Some sort of review system would help no end with this

  17. muppets says:

    when you compare the levels of sportsmanship in football to those of cricket the difference is appalling. In cricket there is still an attitude of ‘may the best man win’. Look at the example where the Indians allowed bell to be reinstated in the summer after he was clearly out due to his own foolishness. all in the aid of treating your opposition with respect and, in turn, gaining respect for your actions.

    football has slipped so far and it just keeps going.

  18. Lennon's Eyebrow says:

    @Chris: Great post.

    @KF: I agree totally. Bale’s dive this weekend is a decent example of this. Agger definitely lunged at him late, but Bale got out of the way. And promptly fell down. What do we do with that? It was very divey in nature. But is he expected to just take the hit? I have no idea what the line is that needs to be walked in terms of punishing the contact with the player and punishing the poorness of the challenge, even if it misses.

  19. JT says:

    Top article. Your far from the only person that this bothers! The thing is, the majority of dim-witted people will take a blind eye to diving if its there own team which profits, giving the pundits, managers and players themselves defending there right to ‘anticipate contact’. The only way to get rid of this is for the FA to do something about it eg. bans and fines for simulation but theres about as much chance of that happening as there is @america getting a non bias view of that wellbeck dive!

  20. swiss mafia says:

    To be honest when I was watching the game, I definitely thought it was a penalty. However, after looking at the replays over and over again it is clear that Ivanovic did not want to make contact and tried to pull away from wellbeck. He even tries to pull is leg out of the way when Wellbeck touches him.
    However, its understandable that the ref could see this as a penalty in real live action.
    I think people still give way to much shit to referees. Sure they might not work in your favor all the time but when they do no one complains. I know its their job to get decisions right, but its also the defenders job to make sure you play safe and in control in your own penalty box, just like its an attacker’s job to do whatever he can to score (not talking about cheating in this instance). But we are all human and can make mistakes.
    Anyways, wrong decision but hard call to make on the pitch at the time of the incident. I say.

  21. SL says:

    I dont blame the refs in this, we need the 4th official to have a tv in front of him and every red card, penalty and goal gets checked by him.

    FIFA say football should be the same at all levels but its not the same at all levels, all the cheats are in the top divisions hence why they should be treated differently.

    90% of diving will stop instantly. Of course we could stop all diving with a 3 match ban where any player chooses to go down.

  22. SL says:

    A perfect example of this in the ACN 8 mins in. Hardly any contact at all.

  23. Ryan says:

    @C7 agreed! Refs are never going to change the diving. Defenders need to give an occasional ‘dislodged retina’ tackle to cheating strikers, eventually they’ll get the message. I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong but it seems the hardest defenders have a lower percentage of divers against, I’m thinking Vidic and Terry.

  24. YJ says:

    like thierry henry said, it seems like the few players who try stand up even when they ARE fouled are essentially being punished because the ref doesn’t want to give it unless they go down.

    then when they cant get the shot away they get blamed

  25. Degs says:

    Retrospective action against diving is the only way this kind of cheating can be nullified.

    3 matches. Then 6 for your next offence. Then 12.
    Even the thickest footballers would eventually get the message.

  26. Mr Sensible says:

    I think a big factor we all need to understand is that both these incidents in real time did genuinely look like penalties. I think when attacks are happening at such speeds any contact whether a foul or not can seem like fouls purely because we see contact and instinctively think it must be a foul.

    Both incidents however at close inspection and using slow mo and multiple camera angles are clearly not penalties, even the fact people are disagreeing after watching these slo mos several times shows how difficult is must be for refs to decide.

    The thing that annoyed me more was everyone saying Boswinga’s foul on Young in the first half was a clear penalty because he pulled his shirt. Yes he did, but hardly and I think this is the important part, football as you said is a contact sport and the amount of contact/shirt pulling is an important issue, just because there is the slightest of shirt pulling does not mean it is an automatic foul, only if the shirt pulling actually results in pulling the man down or stopping him from moving should it be deemed a foul. People need to stop being so soft and allow contact to a point.

  27. Rob says:

    “by the Qatar World Cup perhaps – a tackle will consist of a defender tugging a silken hanky out of an opponent’s waistband and waving it coyly at the referee” sounds like a red card offence to me for “intent.”
    Brilliant stuff Chris, spot on! If only there were professional refs, and dumb commentators reading this.The problem is young fans grow up believing these incidents are fouls, as do new referees.
    Got to give a mention to Ashley Young the king of the “trying to get contact” dive, he was at it again this weekend.
    As for the person sticking up for Bale’s dive, Agger pulled his foot away, if Bale was trying to get out of the way, the direction he dived in wouldn’t have helped, it was a dive don’t stick up for him!

  28. mrmrmr says:

    Spot on. Spotonspotonspoton. The problem is further compounded by the blinkered view that players from our own clubs aren’t possibly capable of stooping to such treachery. A dive is a dive and we need to see past the colour of the shirt (or the nation of birth, etc. etc.) if it’s going to get any better.

  29. james hanbury says:

    stupid argument, both were penalties. its a contact sport if you play the ball first. ivanovic should get out of the way. its like a penalty for a handball doesn’t need to be deliberate! but if the arm is away from the body and interfering with play its a pen. ivanovic was interferring with welbeck no where near the ball. x

  30. Alfred Brown says:

    Adam Johnson’s a serial diver – has been since his ‘Boro days. Ashley Young’s a spectacular diver – like he’s diving over an imaginary fence.

    Here’s one that gets me. He was “entitled to go down”. No-one’s “entitled to go down”. I’m looking at you Mr Shearer.

    There’s too many penalties in the modern game, full stop.

  31. Darren says:

    Well said
    Sickened by Shearer condoning cheating on MOTD and watching Drogba in the African Nations semi final tonight, more of the same.

    Had a bit of a rant myself.

  32. Tinez says:

    Are you american, Chris?

  33. Alex says:

    That poem is terrific mate

  34. balaam says:

    you know what was fun? watching South African referee Daniel Bennett wave away so many of Côte d’Ivoire’s (especially Drogba’s) flailing appeals for a foul.

    officiating – and play – at the Africa Cup of Nations has a lot of faults, but it’s refreshing to see refs let the game be played.

  35. CJ says:

    couldnt agree more. too much empahsise is being put on players trying to win penalties of free kicks when in fact they were just out done in the situation. i think more needs to be done to crack down on it and even introduce punishments. send a few players off for simulation ad i bet the rest will have secod thoughts before they try it.

    great article enjoyed it and for a rare occasion totally agree with you!!

  36. Del says:

    Don’t be sad you guys, you can’t actually expect the pundits on MOTD to use their brains to say something intelligent when doing the football analysis. Alan Shearer looks happy just to finish a sentence and get all the words in the right order.

  37. WildScotsman6 says:

    as a defender.. tears come to my eyes reading this… finally.. finally somebody understands my rage at these weak-minded cheating B@STARDS!

  38. BloodBoiling says:

    I would go a step further – they guy trailing his foot and “anticipating contact” is simply deliberately KICKING the defender and therefore should have a foul awarded against him. The fact that one is attacking and one defending is irrelevant – why is it seemingly impossible for the attacker to foul the defender?

Leave a Reply