Soccer is beyond question my favorite sport in the world.
It is brilliant in so many ways, yet almost at its very best with its simplicity. I can watch almost anyone play as long as the quality is there.
One thing, however, is beginning to test me and my love and enjoyment for the game of soccer. It is the mindset behind today's player to fall to the pitch and roll around in agony as if death itself were surely about to take them at any moment.
Now, I'm not saying soccer players never get injured in the course of a game. They do, and sometimes the injuries are not pretty.
However, it doesn't take Albert Einstein to tell when one of these actual injuries has occurred, and when one is taking the moment to audition for a post-soccer life on the stage.
Today's players are not the first to feign injury for gaining an advantage in the game.
It has been happening, no doubt, as long as a round ball has been kicked around a grass field. However, anyone who has watched the game for the last 10 or so years or longer, has to acknowledge the fact that these theatrics, these displays of fake agony, have gotten worse.
Who is to blame? Hard to say. There seems to me enough blame to go around. Players, coaches, associations, fans—even the media. However, the primary blame, for me at any rate, has to fall with the referees.
The refs are the ones allowing play to stop as a player falls to the pitch, clutching his head or shoulder or a leg, or whatever the closest appendage is to having gotten stuck, and rolling around until enough time has passed for them to receive attention and limp off the field.
Only to miraculously return to the field moments later and, once the ball comes their way, running once again like the wind, forgetting they were so close to death just moments before.
The main enemy, as far as the players are concerned, has been technology. Primarily, television camera technology and inventions. Super clear, super slow motion on our high-def televisions has been the main reason we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt when a player is faking it, which, sad to say, they are more than not.
In fact, if you watch a particular game, and sit down and record the whistles for stoppage because of injuries, and then you examine the replay in slow-motion a few times, it might be safe to say about 75 percent to 85 percent of the time a player gets hurt, he really doesn't get hurt at all.
So, the question that begs asking, why do they do it? What motivation is there for players in England and Spain and Italy and Argentina and Mexico and the United States and everywhere else on the globe, to fake injury?
Why is this happening?
The main answer is, it happens because officials let it happen.
Simple as that. Refs around the world blow their whistle way too much. Every now and then you can sit back and watch a game and you instantly know the ref working the game is fighting the issue.
You can tell, and eventually the players can tell, that this guy isn't going to put up with their crap.
To me, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing a player with the ball get tackled and dispossessed, fall to the pitch and roll around in agony while peeking to see if play has stopped, and having the ref make no call and let play continue.
And then, when the TV cameras show the player has barely gotten touched, it just makes it all the more satisfying.
If you think about it, it is basically trying to cheat.
And it isn't just with tackles that this happens. A couple weeks ago I was watching a Liverpool game, and Jamie Carragher had a ball go off his head and out of bounds. Carragher was livid when a corner was given to the other team. He threw his arms up and started screaming at the ref.
The slow-motion replay clearly showed the ball hit Carragher squarely in the head and then go out of bounds. There wasn't an opposing player within two feet of him.
After his tantrum, he settled back into defending the corner—his attempt at deceiving the ref over.
What is this all about? Why does this happen over and over again? And, although I'm picking on Carragher, he is no different than any other defender in the Premier League. Why the need to to try and deceive?
How many penalty kicks are given on any given weekend in the Premier League do you think? Five maybe? I don't know for sure, but let's say one for every two games. That would give us five a week.
Out of those five, I would bet you with two or three of them, a very light tackle was made and an offensive player threw himself to the ground, looking for the call. And more times than not, he gets it.
This needs to stop.
Officials need to stop blowing their whistles and halting play every time someone falls to the ground. Assume, strange as this may seem, that the player is faking it.
This may seem cruel, especially when the injury is legitimate, yet that is what the players have left us with. Assuming they are lying, because they probably are.
If officials stop calling so many things and issuing yellows for clean tackles, and maybe even giving more yellows for deception, this trend will start to turn.
I don't think we will ever get rid of it totally, but at least reducing it somewhat would help keep the beautiful game beautiful.