After some comedy tumbling recently from Messrs Bale, Suarez and Torres, the sharp practise of diving has gained official status as a ‘cancer within the game’, a diagnosis rubberstamped by FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce – his organisation as keen as always to identify other malignant growths in the sport besides its own bank balance.
But if we are to excise this malady from football, isn’t it time we found out exactly what we were dealing with? Michael Owen made a brave but brief attempt to educate us, only to immediately regret it amid a welter of accusatory headlines.
So we continue to lump our inventive tumblers into a great amorphous mass, denying the many specialist disciplines involved. For once, let’s try to get to know these people a little better.
The Contact Craver
If Hans Christian Andersen’s princess could detect a pea through 20 mattresses, that inconvenience would be enough to knock these chancers clean out of bed. Ordinarily among the best-balanced athletes around, a brush of laces will, in the right circumstances, derail them violently. Later Sky, cranking the zoom, will prove there was indeed minute contact, making these miscreants the greatest single argument against video evidence.
Penalty prospects: 50-50. Experts: Owen, Ashley Young.
The Coyote Collapser
Poor Wile E Coyote was renowned for mistiming his run so badly that the steamroller he had employed to crush Road Runner invariably caught him unawares from behind. But these opportunist floppers misjudge nothing. A surge into the box, waiting all the while for the signal – a pursuer’s hot breath on the neck. Then the knees fold like deck chairs. The finish is prostrate, arms outstretched, wincing as heavy machinery rolls them into the dust. Beep beep, goes the referee.
Penalty prospects: Strong. Experts: Antonio Valencia, Steven Gerrard.
These guys will never have need to telephone Physics Live. For they can predict the arrival of a tackle long before the defender considers making one. Sure, the cards sometimes lie and their spectacular evasive action is for nothing. Unless, of course, the ref points to the spot.
Penalty prospects: Sounder than Russell Grant. Experts: Gareth Bale.
The RSVP sender
‘Gave him the opportunity to go down,’ is the standard euphemism. A tired defender mistakenly issues the invitation with a stray leg. He immediately tries to retract it but the post has already been collected. Down goes the delighted guest over the now non-existent obstacle.
Penalty prospects: Must get your thank-you card in quickly. Experts: Ashley Young, Seb Larsson. Ronaldo.
Going down in instalments, as Big Ron used to call it. Sometimes, diving purists aren’t content with their initial, humble efforts. So, after a second or two’s reflection, they may elect to add a body-popping flourish, much like the final deadly lurch of a horror movie baddie in the death throes.
Penalty prospects: Slim. Experts: Luis Suarez.
The Blind Alley Mugger
Might this be a direct import from the bend-your-back-and-get-your-free school of GAA simulation? It would explain the Duffer’s prowess. Meander down a channel of minimal opportunity. Slow almost to a standstill. Work your arse like Beyonce doing Bootylicious, before hinging forward into an inelegant pile, ideally onto the ball. Scowl.
Penalty prospects: None, this is touchline-based crime. Experts: Duffer. Dietmar Hamann, oddly.
The Performance Artist
For these heroes, the dive is more than a means to an end. It is a way of life. Jurgen Klinsmann is their da Vinci. Elias’s death scene in Platoon their prescribed coursework. They can get height, they can infuse agony, their contortions may yet inspire a new edition of the Kama Sutra.
Penalty prospects: Negligible in an era of more restrained practitioners. Experts: Didier Drogba, Luis Suarez.
Creative geniuses working at the very vanguard of their craft. In most quarters, they still call it ‘The Pires. These guys’ natural get-up-and-go won’t allow them wait around for contact, instead they create a job for themselves by kicking the nearest defender then following through into a full pike.
Penalty prospects: Excellence gets its rewards. Experts: Pires, Danny Welbeck.