The amount of support behind Mauricio Pochettino’s comments about diving reveals the media’s double standards.
It turns out that Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is fully in favour of players conning the referee with diving and play-acting.
His comments following his side’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool, another game which saw Spurs’ players diving to win penalties, were revealing.
“Football is about trying to trick your opponent – yes or no? Tactics – what does ‘tactic’ mean? When you do tactics, it is to try to trick the opponent. You play on the right, but you finish on the left. Twenty years ago, thirty years ago, we all congratulated a player when he tricks the referee like this,” he said.
“That is the football that I was in love with when I was a child. Yes, in Argentina, but in England too. You believe that in England you were honest and always perfect?”
Now, it’s clear that Pochettino has a very different attitude on this due to his background.
Argentina, as well as many South American countries, are not as angered by diving as we are in the UK or other European nations.
In a place where so many skillful players are produced, it’s understandable that many questionable tactics were conjured to deal with them. In turn, the players discovered new ways to protect themselves, including diving.
Even understanding that, you’d expect there to be some outrage about his comments, given how passionate this nation is about the issue, right?
Yet, there was a surprising amount of support, insofar as they didn’t generate the expected anger.
Is there a shift in people’s attitude toward diving now? It’s possible, given how often you hear it described as “clever play” rather than cheating by commentators and pundits. In that sense, we’ve embraced it as an everyday part of our game.
At the same time, the FA launched this new diving panel to retrospectively punish players who have tried to con the referee, so it’s clearly still on the agenda.
Maybe it’s because the debate surrounds Tottenham, the little club that could.
Just imagine the reaction had Arsene Wenger or even Jose Mourinho said what Pochettino said.
There are things that Pochettino says, particularly about trophies and Spurs’ ambition, that echo what Wenger used to say many years ago. Only Wenger was constantly questioned and criticised for it.
So as an Arsenal supporter, it’s impossible not to notice how Spurs’ players somehow avoid the criticism that diving receives.
No player has received more yellow cards than Dele Alli for simulation since his debut in the Premier League, but the press aren’t calling him out for it. And god forbid you attempt to say anything negative about Harry Kane.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fans will remember how Eduardo was blasted for his dive against Celtic way back in 2009. The Scottish FA even went as far as labelling it “disrespectful to football”.
Fans will also remember the fallout from Robert Pires’ alleged diving. Here’s a piece from the Telegraph in 2003 talking about how the Frenchman duped a referee and how “despicable” it all is. They even provided a list of people that Pires had damaged, including himself.
It is despicable. I don’t want to see diving. I certainly don’t want Arsenal’s players to dive, and have never felt comfortable when we’ve benefited from it. So I’m not asking our players to be excused.
There just has to more consistency about how it’s all received. Arsenal players dive. Tottenham players dive. Everyone in the Premier League dives. That is the reality of it all.
There shouldn’t be attempts to sweep it under the rug. It shouldn’t be excused on account of someone’s nationality. Nor should it be twisted into something positive. Doing so legitimises it as a practice, which is counter-productive towards the attempts to stamp it out of the game.
If we’re going to accept it as trickery, then end the debate right now.