Yes, Wayne Rooney dived.
And, yes, the smirk on Wayne Rooney’s face certainly seemed to sheepishly indicate he knew he was getting away with it.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was understandably displeased with Rooney’s actions, probably even before he was awarded his second yellow of the match and realizing he would miss next week’s return leg in Munich when FC Bayern München will attempt to defend or extend their away-goal advantage in their Champions League quarterfinal tie with Manchester United. Players don’t seem to enjoy being on the receiving end of a whistle when they know the referee has fallen for a dive.
Yet, almost unilaterally, players dive.
I can’t say that I know for 100% sure that Schweinsteiger has ever attempted to draw a foul by diving. Nor can I say with confidence that Pep Guardiola, who did not hesitate to indicate what he thought of Rooney’s flop, never performed such a drama during his own playing days. I do not catalog such events, as it’s fairly rampant. Considering little is ever done to discourage the practice, what would be the point of taking note? It’s so commonplace, I simply assume the vast majority of players have done it.
Hence, as long as Rooney was fairly confident he would not be caught by the officials and, hence, receive a yellow card for simulation, not only is there nothing wrong with what he did, but it turns out to have been a very smart play, considering the outcome. Even if you can’t credit Rooney with premeditating that he might reduce Bayern to ten men for the remaining few minutes in the match or removing a piece from Guardiola’s chess board for next Wednesday, it’s ingrained in his game to know the risk-reward equation favors him rather heavily.
The reason this is true for Rooney, if not all professional footballers, is that outrage, shaming, and occasionally getting busted with a yellow card are the outer limits of the negative consequences. When you measure those against getting a free kick from an advantageous spot or even a penalty, can you blame a player, in a sport where goals are so precious, for being hard-wired to regularly purchase that lottery ticket?
But I can blame FIFA, UEFA, and all the other governing bodies of the sport for dragging their feet on efforts to largely administer this blight out of our beloved game. Without doubt, the levying of suspensions upon video evidence would not completely eliminate such incidents from football, but it would be unreasonable to assert it would have no effect.
So what’s the hold up?
I frankly have no earthly clue, but I think the answer lies in the same reasoning that voted-down the adaptation of goal-line technology in German football: fear of change, stubborn adherence to ‘tradition’ for the sake of stubborn adherence, etc.
Or, do football’s governing bodies simply enjoy the drama. You don’t have to patrol the football-ish web too world-widely to find heated discussion over whether or not. . .
- Rooney dived (pretty much everyone acknowledges that he did)
- Schweinsteiger beat Rooney to the ball (after lucking into the perfect freeze frame of a YouTube video, I can say confidently that he did not, though he may have still made contact with it after Rooney did)
- The challenge should have been given a card even knowing Rooney dived (seems far-fetched to me, but not utterly unreasonable)
- And, finally, whether UEFA should rescind the match-ban for Schweinsteiger when they see that no contact was made (which would only spark enormous outrage among the pro-Manchester and anti-Bayern sets. . .then again, we suspect UEFA may enjoy added drama, so don’t rule it out?)
It’s all conjecture, none of which will matter. But that’s what we do here on the internet, isn’t it fellow footy fans? We kick the debate-ball back and forth, hoping to put just the right touch on one to sneak it by someone else’s bias-keeper?
And, let’s face it, we love all the ado, just as Billy Shakespeare (striker, Stratford-on-Avon) knew was human nature.
So, yes, as Pep told The Guardian after the match, “It’s unfair.”
But, as he also said, “you have to solve and overcome everything during the competition.”
That also applies to those of us who do not need to find a way to field a semifinal-achieving squad without being able to choose for the defensive efforts Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez (yellow card accumulation), and Thiago Alcantara (injured last weekend against Hoffenheim). Whether or not a football body comes to its senses about instituting a change or expansion in approach to diminishing the influence of the well-executed dive, we all eventually need to simply move on to the business of the next match.
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