Contrary to the opinions of many soccer fans, diving does have a place in the beautiful game. The diving issue is certainly decisive and is often cited as reason for many neutral sports fans being unable to take a liking to the sport. While it is certainly an unsightly act perpetrated by players attempting to gain an unfair advantage over their opposition, it can sometimes be the difference between winning a match and settling for a point.
Footballers can dive for many reasons. Often there is actually contact made by opposing defenders, but the act is embellished, forcing referees to take notice and make a decision. Others may dive in an attempt to earn scoring opportunities for their team during a match when chances have been sparse. Most despicably are the divers that embellish contact made during verbal and physical altercations with opposing players and play act in order to get their opponent sent off. The latter is certainly a plague upon the game.
Regardless of the reasons for justification, diving is a permanent part of soccer. The stakes are high enough to motivate players to simulate fouls and the potential punishment of a yellow card is not a substantial deterrent for most. Unless players face the possibility of retroactive punishment for diving, including fines and suspensions, this practice will certainly continue. With the game being played on the largest stage and under more and more pressure, players will continue to turn to theatrics.
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20 Morten Gamst Pedersen
Morten Gamst Pedersen executed one of the most despicable dives in the history of football when his Blackburn Rovers were taking on Arsenal. Blackburn was trailing by two goals when Morten hit the group near the corner flag without even the slightest hint of contact from Bacary Sagna. Pedersen gave several excuses including “he felt something” and “he was tired,” but this was really one of the most inexcusable dives ever displayed on a football pitch.
19 Alberto Gilardino
Alberto Gilardino was a fixture on many Serie A squads over the course of his career. Now at the age of 32, he plies his trade in China for Guangzhou Evergrande. During his stint at AC Milan in 2007, Gilardino was taking part in a testy fixture against Celtic. Gilardino received a ball in the penalty area, rounded the keeper, but the ball ran just out of his reach. Instead of continuing his sprinting run, Gilardino locked up his legs and performed a knee-slide, flop dive. To this day, he remains the poster child for diving Italian footballers.
Rivaldo made diving history when he hit the deck during the 2002 World Cup in a clash against Turkey. Rivaldo stood at the corner flag, waiting for the ball, which was kicked in his direction by Hakan Unsal. The ball struck the Brazilian somewhere in the leg, but Rivaldo fell to the ground clutching his face and writing in mock pain. The referee showed Unsal his second yellow card of the match and he was dismissed. Rivaldo was consequently fined $7,350 for his actions.
17 Didier Drogba
Despite his reputation as one of the toughest footballers and best human beings involved in the sport, Didier Drogba is also a diver. Drogba has displayed his diving prowess on several occasions, although his most notable incident occurred against Napoli in the Champions League. Drogba fell to the ground after being brushed in the face by an opponent while running. When he was on the ground wasting time, he peeked through his hands into the lens of television cameras. Drogba also had another notable dive against Arsenal, which resulted in a penalty for Chelsea, but the contract drawn by Didier was hardly noticeable.
16 Bryan Carrasco
Bryan Carrasco executed a piece of diving artwork during a U-20 match between Ecuador and Chile. Carrasco took the hand of Edson Montano, an Ecuadorian defender, hit himself in the face with it and fell to the ground as if struck by Mike Tyson. Carrasco earned the foul call and the free kick for Chile, and Montano did not receive a yellow card for his participation in the incident. Ultimately, it was an inconsequential incident, but was described by Deadspin as “everything wrong with soccer, in one incredible dive.”
15 Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard is a cult figure in Liverpool and is highly regarded as one of England’s best and bravest players over the last two decades. However, he is a diver. Gerrard has been a player that has lectured other professionals about their etiquette on the football pitch, but has displayed some of the same behaviors he’s spoken out against. The evidence exists in the form of dives against Arsenal, Marseille, Sheffield United, and others. Contrary to popular belief, Gerrard is not flawless, and is certainly prone to go to ground.
14 Gareth Bale
Even before moving to Real Madrid, Gareth Bale had earned a deserved reputation as a diver. He even displayed it in a match against his future teammates while still a member of Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal and Aston Villa are also well aware of Gareth’s ability to put the brakes on and hit the deck when there is a suggestion of contact. Bale’s speed and dribbling ability give him an advantage over most opposing defenders, who also have to deal with the possibility that he will flop on shoulder-to-shoulder challenges.
13 Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is not hated simply because of his violent actions on the football pitch. He has proven that he is willing to do anything necessary to win, including diving to earn undeserved penalties. Vincent Kompany was the victim of an incident in which Suarez fouled a defender during a challenge, and the Uruguayan still simulated a foul in the other direction. Suarez was also involved in a notable dive against Aston Villa, where he simulated contact with keeper Brad Guzan, despite Guzan pulling his hands out of the challenge.
12 Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann will forever be known as a diver to the people of Argentina because of his actions in the final of the 1990 World Cup. Argentina defender Pedro Monson slid for a challenge on Klinsmann, but never made contact. There was no contact because Klinsmann leapt over Monson and acted like he had just been caught with an RKO from Randy Orton. His epic flop earned Monson a red card and allowed Germany to secure the 1-0 victory. He would mock the idea of him being a diver by diving as a goal celebration.
11 Gary Lineker
The 1990 World Cup was a notorious affair for the divers involved and perhaps no incident is more infamous than Gary Lineker’s flop. Lineker still insists that he was fouled and that he did not deliberately fall. After an inch perfect through ball from Paul Gascoigne, Lineker rounded the keeper, but fell to the ground before he could finish. The referee decisively pointed to the spot, giving England the penalty. Lineker converted, with his second goal of the day and England progressed past Cameroon.
10 Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria was one of the biggest transfer of the summer transfer window. He has already displayed many of the traits that earned him the big money move to Manchester United, including diving. During his first United vs. Chelsea clash, Di Maria went to ground with only minimal contact from Branislav Ivanovic, but did not earn the call. Di Maria has also displayed his diving prowess against Barcelona during a couple of their El Clasico battles.
9 Emmanuel Eboue
Emmanuel Eboue was a top quality diver during his time with Arsenal and usually saved his best flops for the big matches. During a derby clash between Arsenal and Tottenham, Eboue locked up the legs and simulated a slight injury. Eboue jumped right to his feet to defend himself when Steed Malbranque suggested the Ivoirian had dove. Eboue also displayed a world-class dive in a Champions League clash against Barcelona, needing only the slightest of nudges from Carles Puyol to fall to the ground.
Robinho is another Brazilian trickster that has been tainted with the label of diver. The former Manchester City and Real Madrid player recently displayed both sides of his game for Santos, when he scored twice before being dismissed for diving. Robinho displayed dives against Barcelona during an El Clasico clash, which marred a rather remarkable display of skill otherwise. Despite failing to catch on in Manchester and Milan, Robinho is still a major force in Brazilian soccer, but will always be remembered for unrealized potential.
7 Fabio Grosso
In the closing moments of the 2006 World Cup battle between Italy and Australia, Fabio Grosso infamously stole a result from the Socceroos. Grosso sprinted down the line and beat defender Mark Bresciano before setting in on Lucas Neill. Grosso rounded Neill, but when the Australian slid in for a challenge, the Italian made certain there was contact and flopped to the ground. Grosso admits “maybe I accentuated it a little bit,” but insists that the penalty should have been given. Francesco Totti slotted home the penalty, which gave Italy the win, it was a controversial decision that eventually helped Italy win the World Cup.
Neymar’s diminutive stature can serve as a mitigating factor for his reputation as one of football’s biggest divers. Many defenders are left frustrated by Neymar’s technical dribbling ability and speed, which can cause the opposition to lash out violently. Some of his dives occur in an attempt to avoid contact and unnecessary injury, but others have been blatant displays of pantomime that can leave fans disgusted. As he continues to grow and mature as a player, hopefully this will become a behavior from his youth, but for now Neymar has deserved the label of diver.
5 Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery is not exactly football’s most positive personality. He has been involved in a number of scandals over the course of his career, including several incidents of diving. During a DFB Pokal match against 1860 Munchen, Ribery and Benjamin Schwarz came together along the touchline. After a slight push from both players, Ribery fell backwards and somersaulted. Ribery has gone down without even slight contact on several occasions.
Perhaps one reason why Nani is currently no longer at Manchester United is because of his reputation for diving and playacting. Despite assurances from Sir Alex Ferguson that Nani was not a diver, that was hard to dispute after Nani fell to the floor following a challenge from Paul Konchesky. Nani hit the deck after being shielded off the ball by the Liverpool defender. Nani has also displayed his diving ability during his national team performances with Portugal, including a particularly bad one against Germany.
3 Sergio Busquets
Sergio Busquets earned the reputation as the “King of the Divers” when he fell to the ground during a Champions League clash against Inter Milan. Thiago Motta was shielding Busquets off of a ball in space, when Busquets fell to the ground after being brushed in the face by Motta’s arm. Motta was subsequently sent off for the offense, while Sergio watched from between his hands that were covering his face in mock agony.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is an unquestionably skilled and transcendent footballer, but many football fans find his behavior on the pitch to be offensive. Ronaldo is a frequent user of the “dark arts” and will frequently go to ground if given the opportunity. Aside from his step-overs, his other trademark move could be knocking the ball past opponents, grazing them slightly, and falling to the ground. Ronaldo’s ability to earn free kick and penalty kick opportunities have certainly helped him add to his astronomical goal total, but it has certainly tarnished his reputation.
1 Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben possesses speed and reflexes that are virtually unparalleled in the sport. He also has a history of embarrassing dives, but these dives have sometimes resulted in valuable goals for his team. Robben admitted to diving during the 2014 World Cup in a match against Mexico, but claims he did not dive at the end of the game, where his blatant dive won the Netherlands a penalty and resulted in Mexico crashing out of the tournament. He has continued his diving ways in the Champions League this season. Robben was involved in an incident with Fernandinho, but the incident did not result in a foul call or subsequent response from officials.
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