World Cup: How to stop the kind of cheating that got undeserving Netherlands to the final

Here we go again. A World Cup elimination game decided by an illegal play. But this one is of a different character than when Uruguay striker Luis Suarez used his hands to slap away a sure game-winning goal by Ghana. Suarez’s action was forthright, against the rules, duly penalized, but smart. Bad for the game, but not something one could brand as unethical. I proposed a rule change that would eliminate such plays.

But when Netherlands star Arjen Robben fell to the ground, writhing in pretended pain from pretended contact from the Brazilian defender (diving, in world footballspeak), he cheapened the game. The referee was fooled by Robben’s deception into awarding Holland a free kick, which was converted into the deciding goal in a 2- 1 win that ended Brazil’s hopes of another championship.

Robben cheated, and it got his team into the semi-finals against Uruguay, who they beat, 3-2. Now only Spain stands between the Dutch and the championship. It’ll be sad for the game if the Dutch win, their trophy forever tarnished by the way they won it.

There are three ways to reduce the incentive for players to dive: one, to fill the field with officials; two, to interrupt the game endlessly for examination of TV replays. And there’s a third way, simple, fair, and very effective: Examine replays after the game. If the replay irrefutably shows a dive, the player would be suspended, the length of his suspension determined by the severity of his offense. In Robben’s case I’d have had him sit out the rest of the World Cup. That would have discouraged him and others from trying it again.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping Spain wins in a clean game.

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3 Responses to “World Cup: How to stop the kind of cheating that got undeserving Netherlands to the final”

  1. susan le Says:

    We Americans are much more preoccupied with fairness than the rest of the world. Experiencing the World Cup in Vietnam, where soccer is something of a life-and-death matter, fortunes made and lost over one game, daughters lost to indentured servitude over bad calls in big games, I get a whole new perspective on fairness and soccer. Here, life is NOT fair, more often than it is, and everyone knows every bad call, every cheating play that has occurred in the World Cup in the last 30 years. Maradona with his winning “Hand of God” goal is a hero here. All the players perfect their “diving” techniques, and are applauded for their fine acting skills. It’s considered a part of the excitement—will they get a free kick? Will the refs catch on and yellow card them for bad sportsmenship? Will the fans riot?
    I think we Americans need to watch a full four years of soccer—and, most importantly, watch it with sports enthusiasts from other countries, to fully appreciate all the nuances of Soccer and to pass judgment on ethics on the field.
    On the other hand, being a fan of Brazil, as I know you are, you are right in there with all the other fans decrying how the game was stolen. 🙂 But, as my wise husband points out, those angry Brazilian fans will decry the unfairness of the game’s outcome, the faked injury, the stolen Cup, but they will NOT be shouting to change the rules of the game.

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    All good points, and you’re right, I am a non-expert in the game. But I know that just because cheating and unfairness goes on, that’s no reason to be satisfied with things as they are. Like George Bernard Shaw and Robert Kennedy, I see things that never were and ask, “Why not?”

    Referees’ eyes can’t be improved–they will always get some things wrong. But rules can be improved. FIFA can make it lots less advantageous to dive, and that would make for a fairer game. And I bet the Vietnamese would like it more.

  3. Brazilian women cheated and paid the price against the US in World Cup quarter finals « Ethics Bob Says:

    […] to the ground to make the ref think you’ve been fouled. Soccer should take the simple step needed to disincentivize diving: examine replays after the game. If the replay irrefutably shows a […]

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