A lot has been made of cheating and diving this week in the wake of Didier Drogba’s performance against Barcelona. Ashley Young has also come in for his fair share of criticism after successfully buying another penalty in Manchester United’s home game against Aston Villa last Sunday. To say the footballing world has cast a disapproving eye over the pair during the past few days would be an understatement. Newcastle United defender Ryan Taylor labelled Young the “biggest cheat in the league”, while “embarrassing” was the term used by BBC pundit Robbie Savage when describing Drogba’s antics during Chelsea’s Champions League semi final tie against Barcelona. Does Ashley Young care? Are Didier Drogba and Chelsea the least bit concerned? Are they balls. They won.
While you can understand the reaction to Young’s dive and Drogba’s shenanigans, the level of ill-feeling toward the pair is a little surprising. You have to ask, what are people expecting? You’d think they were the first players ever to be caught out. This kind of behaviour goes on at football stadiums up and down the country every weekend. Whether you call it gamesmanship or play-acting, cheating and diving has been going on for longer than anyone cares to remember and will no doubt continue for years to come. It’s difficult to police it as we’ve seen – referees will make mistakes. Taking retrospective action against cheats is also tough and not just because the FA seem to manage to get every incident spectacularly wrong. The two opposing sides will inevitably have seen the same incident two completely different ways. It’s funny that while Ashley Young was being described as the biggest cheat in the league, Sir Alex Ferguson still managed to describe the event as a blatant penalty. And he is certainly not alone in his thinking.
You might find the odd Chelsea supporter who would concede that Drogba’s actions against Barcelona were a joke. But the general consensus appears to be a thumbs up on a well worked game plan. There are also those who are struggling to muster any kind of sympathy for Pep Guardiola’s players, who have also been labelled divers once or twice! The record books will always say Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona. Full stop. They won’t read: Chelsea did beat Barca, but they were outplayed and Didier Drogba really let himself down. It’s difficult to believe that in years to come when people are referring to Manchester United’s title winning side of 2012, they will rush to point out that Ashley Young dived in one game against Aston Villa.
No one wants to condone cheating and diving, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise any more. It happens and it will take years to eradicate. If anything, players will become more skilled in ‘the art of cheating’. Winning teams do not care how they win (just look at Stoke City) while losing teams will always have something to complain about. When all’s said and done, when it comes to dishonesty, play-acting, gamesmanship and blatant cheating, those who benefit will be more than happy to take whatever they can get, while the rest will be left fuming.
[quote]Football is made for cunning people. I don’t think it is true to say that you are disloyal to football if you feign an injury or tug a shirt or do something else to win the game, as winning games is the purpose of football. Cheating the referee is not a sin if it helps your team to win.
Former Juventus and Uruguay defender Paolo Montero. [/quote]