There has been much hysteria on these shores this past week about cheating in football. Luis Suarez‘s latest theatrics have sparked outrage in the English football world again. People want the cheats like Suarez to be punished. Or rather, they want people who cheat in a way that is seen as under handed to be punished. Because after all, cheating in an obvious manner that doesn’t include falling over an imaginary leg or exaggerating contact in the penalty area is infinitely more palatable in England.
By Dave Martinez – @snez10
Football is, always has been, and always will be, a game where cheating is not just omnipresent, but pretty much a pre-requisite. Examine any game of football at any level and the number of times the rules are broken will be exhaustive. You will see players appealing for corners and throw ins when they know they have kicked the ball out of play themselves, players pulling shirts and ‘tactically’ fouling with no other intention than to stop their opponents scoring, time-wasting from players when their team are wining a match, the list goes on and on. So why is all this seen as acceptable and ‘part of the game’ while a dive is seen as the ultimate sin?
In this country we love nothing more than throwing tomatoes at the pantomime villains who are seen waving their imaginary cards, falling to the ground when people breathe on them and exhibiting their Tom Daley style double pikes (providing they are from shores afar, of course). It is to be cherished then, that we have a man who stands up for the integrity of the English game whenever he must and embodies the English resistance to underhand tactics that people like Luis Suarez exhibit. A man whose love for the beautiful game is matched only by his hatred for those who attempt to soil it with their dishonest ways. Step forward Tony Pulis.
Just a couple of weeks back, after his team had been beaten by Chelsea, Stoke City manager Pulis was demanding that Chelsea players be retrospectively punished for diving. He unleashed a tirade during his post match press conference about how simulation was damaging the game and how those at fault must face the consequences. It is cheating and it is wrong, he claimed. He made a stand. He stuck by his principles and let the wider world know that he was against cheating in football and wanted the authorities to back him up. He put himself up there as a pioneer for the integrity of football. After reading his comments, something came to my mind. I remembered that Pulis’ team had benefited from a piece of cheating just a week earlier. I decided to investigate and see what this bastion of truth and justice had made of this indiscretion from one of his own. Surely he condemned the action from the offending Stoke player and kept true to his principles? Not quite…..
Against Manchester City, seven days before Pulis laid into Chelsea players for cheating, his striker Peter Crouch scored a goal against the champions that was preceded by two obvious hand balls. Essentially, Crouch cheated by controlling the ball with his hand twice and got away with it. Tony Pulis’ reaction when questioned about the illegal goal that earned his side a valuable point? “I’ve been told Crouchy handled ball – if we’ve got a decision go our way I’m delighted.” Not quite the same levels of righteous indignation there from the Stoke manager, eh? Come on Tony! Mind you, the club crested capped crusader has redoubled his efforts since then so let’s not judge him too harshly just yet, for Pulis was at it again this weekend.
Pulis’ team were away at Liverpool on Sunday and Tony sent his Stoke side out on to the turf at Anfield with the primary objective to consistently disrupt the game of football that their hosts so desperately wanted to partake in. This was achieved by any means necessary including monotonous, cynical fouls from most of his players, Robert Huth stamping on Luis Suarez’s chest and unfathomable amounts of time-wasting from his goal keeper that resulted in a £25,000 fine for his club for accumulating six yellow cards (and referee Lee Mason could and should have dished out a lot more). It was, as most games involving Stoke City are, depressing fare. Content with his teams hard-earned point, Pulis again got on his soap box after the match to protest about the cheating that is spoiling the game of football.
He condemned Luis Suarez for diving to try and win a penalty for Liverpool and demanded that the Uruguayan be punished for it. To Tony it seems that diving is the cardinal sin, but cynically chopping down opposition players whenever they are mounting an attack or pulling shirts inside the penalty area is just part of the game. Maybe he is right. After all, we didn’t see endless replays of John Walters nearly breaking Glen Johnson in half with a mid-air assault this weekend, did we? And the FA didn’t ban Robert Huth for stamping on the chest of an opposition player, did they? And no penalty was awarded to Martin Skrtel when Stoke City marker nearly tore the shirt off his back at Anfield, was it? Instead we’ve had an inquest into what a massive, ungodly cheat Luis Suarez (the guy who is lucky to have his ribs in tact this weekend after being stamped on) is again because he took a dive that he quite correctly didn’t receive a penalty for.
It would be easy to dismiss Pulis as just another hypocritical football manager but in reality, he is more than that. Pulis embodies the English mentality when it comes to football. Cheating is fine unless the perpetrator attempts to disguise it. That’s sly. That’s a foreign thing. And we don’t like it.
Was Tony Pulis wrong to criticise diving and, in particular, Luis Suarez? Or does he choose to say, see and hear what he wants to hear? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.