After receiving unprecedented praise throughout the media over the past eighteen months, Liverpool’s Egyptian poster boy Mohammed Salah has been heavily condemned this week for his actions during their recent Premier League fixture at Anfield.
Klopp’s men were keen to widen the gap at the top of the table in their game against Crystal Palace, and a thrilling 4-3 victory for the Reds saw them go four points clear at the top of the table.
Yet it wasn’t the result grabbing the headlines this week.
Instead they focused on an incident involving Salah in the first half. After snaking his way skilfully into the Palace box, a challenge from Mamadou Sakho caused the striker to hit the deck in a rather melodramatic fashion. Subsequent slow motion replays then uncovered the truth of the matter: a horribly blatant dive in a shocking effort to win his team a penalty. No penalty awarded, and equally no card awarded for simulation (as the Good Book states there should be in such an event), meaning referee Jonathan Moss received extensive criticism during the post-match analysis.
The 360-degree replays we are so lucky to have in the modern game mean that acts of gamesmanship like diving are seldom left hidden. Indeed, the footage of the Salah dive makes for uncomfortable watching from a Red’s perspective, and has led the wider football community to dwell on the question that has dominated debate for years: why do the world’s most talented players resort to cheating through simulation?
The alarming truth of the matter is the normalisation of such behaviour in the professional game has meant that we see diving on a weekly basis.
Forwards are, unfortunately, encouraged to make mountains out of mole-hills when it comes to an opponent’s challenge, as attempts to stay on one’s feet would reduce the chances of a foul being awarded. Nowhere is this more evident than inside the box; some of the theatrical falls we have seen in the Premier League this season exhibit a gymnastic ability akin to Tom Daley’s bronze-medal winning performance at London 2012…
The fight against simulation is an area of integral importance at the FA, and indeed FIFA, yet it is one that has been proven challenging.
Diving is cheating, and players caught cheating deserve to be publicly exposed and punished for their actions. Professional footballers these days are some of the most influential role-models for younger generations, therefore it is vital for the game as a whole that diving is portrayed as immoral, unethical and contradictory of the values of our ‘beautiful game’.
The only way to do this is to increase the severity of punishments, such as extended bans from playing in the league, but the recent lack of punitive action has led to the behaviour becoming so widespread that it would be almost impossible to punish every guilty player in such a way.
Mo Salah is one of the most exciting, skilful players we have in the Premier League, yet his habit of diving somewhat devalues him in my mind. He is certainly not an isolated case though; simulation has become a plague that exists so prevalently across the Football League that you will be lucky to watch a game where a player doesn’t go down melodramatically. A problem past and present that will no doubt continue to occur: the question is, is there a solution?
Image: Kevin Walsh via Wikimedia Commons