An old joke here in the Netherlands all comes down to accusing Germans of stealing all our bicycles during the Second World War. Occasionally, we steal something back from the Germans. One of these things is the football term “Schwalbe.”
Now a Schwalbe is nothing more than taking a dive. The Germans dubbed this move a Schwalbe, or swallow, because of the diving flight pattern swallow species in Germany have.
The dive of the swallows was mimicked by footballers going down to get a penalty.
This etymological and semantic lesson is the intro for a pretty interesting tale, so bear with me. On the subject of taking a dive, the whole world knows and loathes Cristiano Ronaldo for taking dives frequently.
In the Dutch Eredivisie, there’s a similar player. Ajax’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez is known to go down fast.
As it happens, the credibility of players that go down often and easily declines rapidly. In fact, Suarez hardly ever gets a foul called in his favour, even if he is actually being fouled. His history regarding dives and faking injuries to get penalties and free-kicks has caught up with him.
Personally, I think the case of Suarez (and other similar cases) is just one more reason to introduce video-images to aid the referee. Referees are often influenced by a players reputation and/or a hostile home-crowd when making a split-second decision that can alter the course of the game.
I’ll elaborate. A few weeks ago, “De Klassieker” was played in Rotterdam. De Klassieker translates as "The Classic", the match between arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam and AFC Ajax Amsterdam. During this match, referee Erik Braamhaar influenced the course of the game quite dramatically, twice.
In both cases, video assistance might have changed the decision the referee made.
In both cases, a player went down in the box. Now the million dollar (or euro) question always remains, is that player taking a dive—or was he really brought down by his opponent in such a way that a penalty is fair?
I’ll show you the pictures.
In the first picture we see Feyenoord's Brazilian defender Andre Bahia getting close and personal with Ajax's Suarez. The two of them are really feeling the love, they're that close together. If they're not feeling the love, they're at least feeling each other (up).
In the second picture we see Feyenoord's veteran striker Michael Mols going down whilst being held back by Ajax's young wing-back Urby Emmanuelson. Mols is obviously not into cuddling and is showing his disdain towards this treatment by screaming. Urby, on the other hand, looks quite shocked Mols isn't into cuddling. Feel the love, brother!
Quite similar cases, wouldn’t you agree? If anything, you’d say that the foul on Mols wasn’t quite as bad as the one on Bahia. Mols’ action even looks a bit theatrical, spreading his arms wide and shouting whilst on the way down. Still, similar cases, were it not for the reputation of Suarez and the attitude of the Feyenoord supporters, the famous band called “Het Legioen” (The Legion).
Referee Erik Braamhaar decided to give a free-kick to Feyenoord in our first case. Suarez was deemed to have taken a dive. According to the referee, there was nothing wrong with the way Andre Bahia defended against the Uruguayan forward. Fair enough. That’s his decision.
Whether I agree or not, I can respect his decision.
Now in the second case, referee Erik Braamhaar decides that Feyenoord has earned a penalty that can put them level at 2-2. Look at the pictures. The first foul was a more severe one compared to the second one. The first foul was rewarded with a free-kick, the second one with a penalty.
A bit inconsistent, if you ask me. It may have something to do with the odd 55,000 Feyenoord fans screaming their lungs out asking for a penalty.
Now I’m okay with the second penalty decision. Technically, Mols was being held back, ergo a foul was made. What I’m not okay with, is the fact that a more severe foul on another player was not rewarded the same way, just because the player being fouled was not playing for the home-side and had the reputation of going down easily.
In itself, the second reason is perfectly understandable. Suarez brought this on himself, even though his behaviour has improved in the last season. But when there’s this much money at stake and when decisions can be this important to a match,
I think it would be a good idea to eliminate the chances of a referee making the wrong decision. Video replays would be the ideal solution.
I’m confident the outcome of the decisions would’ve been fairer when the referee would be able to stop play for a minute or so and check a video replay of the incident. Instead of making a split-second decision and possibly being influenced by a hostile crowd of the reputation of a player, a referee could take his time and examine the situation from various angles.
Cases like the Suarez v. Mols penalty-situations are proof that referees are prone to make mistakes when it’s a high-stakes game. Isn’t it time we eliminated some of these mistakes, when they are potentially game-deciding?
Instead of giving Ajax a penalty and a possible 3-1 lead, which would probably have resulted in a win for the Amsterdam side, Feyenoord was given a way back into the match.
That’s quite a difference, one point or three points. If you keep in mind that the title race was decided by a few points last year, this loss of points could prove to be costly for either team.
Schwalbe or not, in a game like this I wouldn’t let the referee decide instantly.