“DURING different games, a lot of situations like this happen.
“The problem today is that more than this type of situation, I am worried that we are going to change the game that we know, how we know football.
“It’s a mix that I am worried that maybe we are going to kill the game. We love this game.
“Of course if you dive and the referee saw you, you are punished. Of course and he deserves it. But don’t go more crazy.
“Football is a creative sport, in which you need the talent, that grows in a very intelligent person, a very smart brain.
“And now we are so focused on minimal details.
“Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, it was like all congratulate the player when he tricks the referee or like this.”
Mauricio Pochettino’s comments after the weekend’s game have yet again launched a discussion around morality and cheating in football.
As ever, the responses to his comments don’t properly acknowledge the nature of the game of football in its entirety.
The first mistake we make is to place the moral absolute at the forefront of matters. Playing football in a certain way isn’t simply about morality — the first thing the football supporter and the football player cares about in the moment is winning the game.
The overarching rights and wrongs of a decision within a game of football, the live maelstrom of a football match are in the first place defined by our cares and needs. We need Liverpool to win. We care for them to progress against this opposition.
How they do so may well form a discussion during and after the fact, but a football match is an intense version of being alive, of being in the moment. There isn’t time for decisions to be reassessed, just to be made and felt, and what we feel is care for The Reds and need for them to win.
But the other thing a football match is, especially a professional match, is public. Football is a public act. Football is performance in all of its senses. There is no difference — in both moral and performative terms — between asking for a penalty which you know isn’t and asking for a throw in which you know isn’t.
There is no difference between choosing to make a tactical foul when the opposing team is on the break and throwing yourself to the ground when touched in your own half to kill the flow of the game. There is no difference between rolling around after being fouled to get a player booked and gesturing to the referee that a player should, in your view, be booked.
Football is about cheating. Constantly about cheating. All your favourite players cheated, in that all your favourite players played on the absolute lines of the game and looked to bend them in their direction and knew that they were doing that.
Cheating sounds such a harsh word. “Well, it is just cheating. Nothing more you can say.” But there is a lot more you can say.
You can cheat accidentally (at which point the grey-bearded will rush to tell you it isn’t cheating, yet the who benefits from the offside goal isn’t rushing to hand it back).
You can cheat deliberately, scything down the striker is who is through on goal and just outside the box in the dying embers of the game or you can do a bit of both.
You can act in a manner which doesn’t so much explicitly cheat, pantomime style, but “gives the referee a decision to make”. Much of football is doing a bit of both. Because where the lines are grey is where results can be best got.
There is another part of football which is public. The consequences of the decisions, the ramifications of the cheating. If a player cheats during a game of football — when a player cheats — there is a neutral arbiter of events who is meant to punish them. He is the bastard in the black. You know the guy.
He is meant to arbitrate these decisions and to do so well, and he mostly tends to do so. He is played upon and he is a participant in the action, albeit one who should not be an active one — he shouldn’t be seeking to influence the outcome although he inevitably will do so.
The act of playing football is to make decisions that mean you get an advantage. To perpetually look for an advantage using your technique, talent, physicality and brain in front of a group of others playing the game and a referee.
Those who love their football to be “moral” (i.e. morally good and sound according to their view of morality) then say “well, isn’t it the same as taking drugs or bribing then,” and the answer to that is “no it isn’t”. Not at all.
The thing about taking drugs or bribing is that they are done behind closed doors, away from the contest, away from the performance and away from the eyes of the watching world and the neutral arbiter of events.
They are acts which alter the public contest but take place in private. Playing football is public; playing elite football is so very public. It’s here that advantages should be sought and exploited.
We accept, in the act of watching and playing the game that the rules of the game will not be enacted purely and perfectly, indeed we crave that. But away from what is in the public eye, the action, matters are different. Morality is not the be all and end all and drawing (limited) moral parallels between acts is a fool’s errand.
A game of football is a very different thing from breaking a law, breaking a law is different from marital infidelity, marital infidelity is different from drug taking in sport and drug taking in sport is different from claiming a throw in when you know it isn’t yours. It’s intellectually lazy to equate everything with a massive line down the middle and put RIGHT on one side, WRONG on the other and list human actions there flatly.
The facts are these — we do not want our players to be constantly morally good, not if we support them, because we know, on some level, constantly moral goodness will act as a barrier to success. But even as neutrals, we don’t want all the footballers to be constantly doing the “right” thing. We want there to be goodies and baddies.
We want to be able to call a player a cheat and laud another for the fact he genuinely isn’t that kind of player, although definitive examples of a type of either are difficult to come by (Luis Suarez and Gary Lineker come to mind, and I know which I’d rather be watching every week for my side) because this is part of the enterprise. It’s part of sport, and one of the reasons football is the best of the sports is that it is the best at demonstrating the performative aspects of the sport.
Some of us might prefer “tough-tackling” defenders and midfielders in the way in which they cheat. By kicking people hard. Others may prefer those who cheat with their movement around the offside trap and benefit from it. Some of us may well like lads who show consistent dissent, pressuring officials at every turn, appealing for everything. Some may well like players who are clever and able to trick the referee into making bad decisions. The Didi Hamann crumple is an example often referenced by Liverpool supporters when we want time taking out of the game.
The facts are that footballers make loads of decisions during their job and most of them are very high-profile decisions around consequences. If I pass there, what happens? If I go with my man but vacate my position, what happens? If I dive here, what happens?
If you want less diving, want more consequences — during the game, after the game, whatever you like. Then these athletes who are the very best in their profession at making decisions may well make different ones when those consequences are crystal clear.
Until then they are footballers, not just professional footballers, but footballers. They play the game and they play the game to win it in full view of their teammates, opponents, officials and — at the highest level — 55,000 pairs of eyes and a world of cameras.
Football is too good and marvellous a game to be bullied by notions of right and wrong; what Pochettino is right about is what makes it the best sport in the world, however much the way he articulates it sticks in some craws.
So let’s forget right and wrong on the pitch, in the performance. It’s hard enough dealing with just winning and losing.
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Those who codified the laws of the game and came up with gentlemanly conduct to differentiate between the chopping down of the guy through on goal and cheating. Trying to fool the ref to gain an advantage is not being clever or showing skill or intelligence, call it what you will, it’s undermining the honesty in the game. Professional football is big business, millions watch it on tv, but if we condone, even encourage cheating we might as well pack in because the best cheats will win, and who wants that?
Perhaps it’s being an auld arse that makes me cringe if one of the lads in the red shirt goes down if a puff of wind is in the vicinity.
Missed out the ‘un’!
“The thing about taking drugs or bribing is that they are done behind closed doors, away from the contest, away from the performance and away from the eyes of the watching world”
Nah…it’s played out in full view. The decision might be behind closed doors, but with Pochettinos comments so is the decision to dive and act …the act is in full view of us though.
cheat is a cheat,does not matter how you dress it up.as my mum said,honesty is the best policy,am old school,sorry,cheating were does it end,play to the rules,or do not play at all,you know am right.
It doesn’t matter how many contrary arguments you put in front of it, cheating has no place in football especially in Britain, the rest of the world have other ideas and now with foreign players it has been creeping into our game over the last few decades, it’s another reason we don’t win world cups etc. we are too honest and now the foreign managers are telling our English players to cheat like they do!
It’s wrong, don’t let the herd dictate the rules, don’t moo, help preserve our game not their “I want an Oscar” performance art excuse for cheating and their dirty tactics, eg. how many good players have been hurt and gotten rid of to stop England from advancing in the world and European Cups, every team plays England like it is a W.C. final and they have gone out to mame our best strikers etc.
And not knowing the complete history of the game you cannot begin to have a point of view that is not skewered to a few decades of a foreign cancer creeping in trying to normalize the worst of cheating in the game.
And know one I know that is British wants their team to win by any means neccessary, you opinion is biased and not factual!
Yeh foreigners are awful cheats and english are angels. What a load of xenophobic shit
I have read this Article but cannot agree that cheating is part of the game of Football if it is deliberate then it should be punished. A professional Sportsman should own up if he has deliberately tried to gain advantage to win.In the game of Snooker if the Player fouls and referee has not seen the foul the Player always owns up so why should Footballers not act Professional and admit to the referee he was or was not Fouled or did or did not Foul his opponent. A Referee may not have to award these controversial Penalties if there are no Cheats.
If your premise Neil is that we are all immoral and cheat in one way or another then I absolutely agree. But then you become as intellectually lazy as everyone else by drawing a line in the middle and calling it right and wrong, rather than seeing it as a continuum, and taking into account context as well. I used to steal sweets from the shop across the road when I was a kid – that’s not moral, but it’s not as immoral as robbing the shop at gunpoint. So I don’t agree that contesting for a throw-in that isn’t yours is the same as diving for a penalty that has a much higher probability of changing the outcome of the game. And it’s different from a tactical foul where you know you’ll be punished according to the laws of the game right there and then, rather than deceiving the ref in order to gain an advantage. Weird that it’s a popular thing now to argue that all these things are the same so we should all just enjoy them.
I much prefer Gibbo’s take on this in the Talking Reds video – for me football is about what Mo Salah did for his second goal, not what Lamela did for theirs. Football would not be fun if all games are won by diving just because Poch says it’s ok. The tiny point you make about consequences is the important point in all this though and I wish the refs were better at their jobs and the pundits didn’t keep repeating the same tired cliches all the time.
Re-reading the piece (which, btw, could use a thorough proof-reading and editing) might be a good idea, as you seem to have completely misunderstood Neil’s main thesis and supporting arguments.
I re-read it, and the points I picked out are still valid to me. How did I completely misunderstand? Genuinely asking.
I usually always agree with your comments on these blogs so it’s worthwhile for me to reflect when you post something that I don’t initially agree with.
My thinking has always been with Neil’s on this subject – i.e. cheating on the pitch is cheating on the pitch. Whether appealing for a throw-in that isn’t yours, or diving in the box – I’ve always seen them as the same thing. So your idea that the probability of changing the game should be used as a yardstick on the cheating scale is interesting but I see some issues …
By your logic, then someone diving in the middle of the pitch isn’t cheating but diving in the penalty box is. Someone having their shirt pulled is only cheating if there is a breakaway likely to lead to a goal. Also, an attacker fouling a defender in the box at a corner is cheating where the same foul in the centre circle is part of the game.
You can see where I’m going. It’s an interesting argument but I remain to be convinced.
My point is that I accept it’s all cheating, but the context (and hence rewards and consequences, monetary or otherwise) matters for me. That’s all really. Diving in the middle of the pitch is cheating, but diving to get a penalty is worse because it has a more direct impact on the outcome of the game. For me tactical fouls are different because the referee will most likely see it and give you a card – you’re expecting that and willing to take it, in contrast to conning the ref when you dive. So essentially you get a massive reward for the dive in the box if you’ve done it well, but you get penalised for the tactical foul as per the rules of the game.
Just to be clear, I know Pochettino was talking about Dele Alli who was penalised, but for me Kane and Lamela did deceive the ref and got away with it and so that’s where my issue is. And to confuse things more, I didn’t have a problem with the penalty won by Lallana v Everton, because it was funny, because I was convinced they worked on that in training just so that Klopp can make a point in the press conference after the game about the Lovren one.
I think Dale’s comment below explained it much more eloquently than I did. Or maybe I misunderstood the whole article, which is also very possible. Btw I’m not aiming to convince anyone and I accept there might not be any logic to what I’ve said.
But, a tactical foul on a counter attack, usually ends up depriving the attacking team with a high probability goal scoring chance, while the corresponding punishment the defending team gets is a mere yellow card. How does that not irk you?
But when a player dives to earn a penalty (high probability chance), it is irksome to the traditionalists. How are the two different?
To me both are the function of potential reward being much higher than the potential punishment.. Footballers (and for that matter all humans) will always make decisions where the potential reward is higher than the potential punishment. It is the duty of the law makers (be it, football or any walk of life) to ensure that punishment for any law breaking is commensurate to the reward that was attempted to be gained.
On your first paragraph: I don’t know what it has to do with being a traditionalist or non-traditionalist…
– The probability of scoring on the counter is no where near as high as the probability of scoring from a penalty. I think we can agree on that.
– A tactical foul is punished as per the laws of the game. The player/team doing the fouling is punished. There is then a disincentive to do another tactical foul because of the risk of being sent off. If it’s a second yellow card the player is sent off. If it’s a straight red the player is sent off. So depriving the attacking team illegally comes at a cost in this case.
– A badly-executed dive is also punished as per the laws of the game (spectacularly illustrated by Smalling’s dive yesterday). Depending on how you look at it, there is now a disincentive to do another one, or an incentive to try it again but do it better so as to get away with it.
– A well-executed dive in the box that deceives the referee is not punished even when it is illegal – in fact the innocent team is punished in this case, rather than the team doing the diving. This doesn’t seem right. Teams become better at diving by practicing diving. So there is a will and a plan to operate outside the laws of the game, to break the rules and get away with it. That, for me, is how the two things are different.
And I agree with your last sentence. I have to wonder if the yellow for simulation has mostly acted as an incentive to practice diving more and be better at it, aided by the incompetence of referees and pundits when talking about “the player was clever there” and “there was a little contact”. In other words it’s probably had the opposite effect of its original aim, which was to cut out simulation.
The most pleasing thing to have emerged from Sunday is the realisation many have come to that there’s a real difference between the Spurs portrayed by the British media and pundit circuit and the real Spurs.
They are a cynical, cheating group of footballers. It’s something I noticed at the start of last season and have followed since. The Spurs described by someone like Jermain Jenas and the Spurs I see are two very different things.
To now have Pochettino come out and essentially submit to cheating as a fundamental part of the game confirms to me that he’s completely at ease with the way his team conduct themselves. Whatever, it’s who they are, but the issue I have is with the perception of them as this wholesome, gallant team of strivers. They just aren’t.
No, they’re definitely not but that makes it even better. It’s easier for us to hate them now, and also easier for their own fans to see them as a streetwise, tough side. The opposite to the soft-centred Spurs of old. Talking points and perceptions are part of what makes football great. If there was zero chance to profit from diving and fouling then no-one would do it and there would be no villains and a lot less personality in the game. Long live imperfection in the game for me.
“If there was zero chance to profit from diving and fouling then no-one would do it and there would be no villains and a lot less personality in the game. Long live imperfection in the game for me.”
I do not follow. The very existence of rules and laws creates the literal possibility of violating them, thus committing infractions, etc and provides the incentive for evading detection and punishment for having violated them.
I don’t understand what that has to do with “personality in the game”. So long as there are rules, there will be deviations from them, and vice-versa, and an incentive for people to engage in them and attempt to “get away with it”. Rules prohibiting something that would not be more “efficient” for the purposes of attaining a desirable outcome would be useless and without function OR purpose. Prohibiting an action does not, in and of itself, render that action desirable or worthy or trying to evade the prohibition whilst avoiding detection and punishment.
There’s nothing “charming” or particularly “interesting” about deliberate cheating or deliberate, repeat, systematic cheaters.
No, you don’t follow (with respect). I do not want ‘anarchy’ but neither do I want a sterile game with decisions guided by television replays. The human factors including any types of fouling and refereeing mistakes are all part of the visceral and passionate nature of the sport (playing and spectating). As I said, football is imperfect and that is part of it’s idiosyncratic beauty, for me anyway.
James, if I tell you that refs and linesmen are already using television replays by way of the fourth official, so in essence an unregulated VAR, which means we don’t know what decisions they’re *choosing* to get right and wrong, and that the delay around the pen decisions in the last game is the same as the delay with VAR, would you still be against it? Wouldn’t you rather have the ecstasy of that win? Because I would.
That’s all absolutely right mate. I dispute none of it.
All I’m saying is I’m glad people are beginning to realise what Spurs really are. Their fans absolutely see them in the way you describe but they’re quite wrong.
Yes, that’s a good point mate. It was becoming a bit nauseating to be honest, everyone fauning and idealising them.
Yep. I am hoping we’ll see an end to that now. Not from biased pundits like Jenas of course but generally speaking I think their mask has slipped.
Spot on. This should also encompass VAR because football is NOT an exact science and I doubt when they think about it anyone actually wants it to be. Football is all about injustice and huge talking points, winning against the odds when all is against you. The greatest teams hurdle ALL the obstacles but are also not completely immune to them. Football reflects life and always should, not in a glib way, in that it is unpredictable and often unfair. Officiating should be better but not mechanically so.
And certainly not ‘morally’ so, good grief!
Anyone who has not noticed and will not state that LFC are not what anyone of good faith and properly working senses and brain would classify as a “cheating/feigning/dissimulating” team whilst others clubs are much more so, would be prevaricating.
The “cheating” that really grates is that which is done deliberately, knowingly, advisedly. The kind whereby a player who knows for a fact that he never touched the ball but immediately gets up and insistently POINTS TO THE BALL claiming he got it, for example. The kind where a player who knows he has been man-handling an opponent openly and theatrically insists “I didn’t touch him, I didn’t touch him!” . . . and so on, and so forth.
Both Kaine and Lamella qualify as deliberate cheats. And Pochetino is an idiot and a ‘con-man’ for attempting to equate “deceiving your opponent” with “deceiving the referee”, and being imaginative and creative with being an effing lying, prevaricating, feigning and dissimulating bastard.
Mauricio Pochettino is a hypocrite and has no balls to call out his own players for cheating.
We have a right to be aggrieved at having had the sheer ecstasy of Salah’s goal nicked off us by a cheating bastard and incompetent, attention-seeking officiating. We’re allowed to be fucked off with this.
One hundred percent agree with Danno here!
Rubbish and nonsense. Give me a fair game and I’ll live with the outcome.
I doubt if the officials are attention seeking.I think that they will become even more affected by the presence of VAR and try to ref the game accordingly.
Most of the time action replays highlight mistakes by refs.But there is a massive difference in seeing something in real time then reviewing it in slomo.A late tackle looks like a deliberate attempt to injure somebody when viewed in slow motion.And that’s what we’re up against now.T.V.wants every game to look like that chariot race in Ben Hur.And a lot of the players and managers are getting wise to it.
Yes I agree that cheats are everywhere and part of the games or even in different kind of sports. But if you cheated, at least admit in honesty and move on rather than seeking refuge with some sort of excuses like “I didn’t cheat”, “cheating is part of the game”. If cheating is part of the game, then why have a game of rules? It just contradicts and is an oxymoron. The disgusting act of cheating is one who is ignorant and thinks he didn’t do it.
Diving to win a penalty is not a “minimal detail” as Pochettino claims because it can, if successful, to state the bleeding obvious, lead directly to a goal—which can obviously decide a match. (And thus, decide where the points go, decide a cup final’s outcome, and even affect promotion/relegation, etc. etc.)
In my opinion, discussions on “cheating”, “morality”, “hypocrisy”, “British versus South American players”, blah, blah, blah are simply distractions to the issue.
If a player tries to trick a referee into giving a penalty, the punishment should reflect the degree to which it affects the outcome. End of. Everything else is hot air.
With all the furore about Kane, already going down, and then feeling contact, and Lamela effectively throwing himself at VD leg. It’s funny that the worst dive in the game, by Ali, has kind of been swept under the rug. When players are booked for diving, it should be revisited after the game and if determined to be a blatant attempt to con the ref, there should be a 3 game (minimum) ban. I’d prefer six games, that’ll keep the forwards on their feet.
‘Cheats seldom prosper’, or so they used to say. But it’s simply no longer true, sadly.
If the comments from Pochettino came from anyone else but the premier league golden boy then there’d probably be a visit to FA headquarters to explain them.
It’s kinda mad this Spurs thing…..not one of them can do anything wrong. Its really a bit odd.
Great article for me although it’s interesting that most posters disagree.
The thing which grates me most is the hypocrisy around the subject. We all hate Ali for diving but were all cheering when a Suarez dive led to a pen for us. Equally, back in 2012, every pundit was joining a witch hunt against Suarez for diving whilst praising Bale to the rafters (he got booked 4/5 times that season for simulation).