While watching a professional or stadium soccer game, you may have noticed that players will pretend to be in pain after faking an injury, only for them to turn out just fine and be able to keep playing soon after.
Some people will see this, not realizing that the player staged their injury and viewing soccer players as weak compared to other team sports players.
Sometimes soccer players will fake injuries during league competitions as a way to manipulate the referee into calling a foul and penalizing the other team. A yellow or red card that is issued to the other team, or a penalty kick awarded to the team who faked an injury gives the team an upper hand.
To learn more about this phenomenon, which in the soccer world is referred to as “Foul Simulation” or “diving”, keep reading, and you’ll also learn how this is penalized.
What is a foul simulation and why do players do it?
A foul simulation in soccer (or association football), which is also often referred to as diving, is the act of faking an injury in order to put a pause on the game or to cause the referee to believe there was a foul and make a call that is going to benefit the team who feigned the injury.
Often when a foul occurs that causes an injury, the referee will issue a red or yellow card to the opposing team or award the offended team a free kick or penalty kick, which will benefit them in the long run.
A diving attempt looks like a player falling to the ground and pretending they’ve been injured to make the referee think that a foul has been committed.
This usually occurs near an opposing player so that the one around them is blamed, and it may appear to the referee that the opposing player had tripped them or made some impact to cause them to fall.
Because soccer is very fast-paced, the opposing player has no time to defend themselves before receiving punishment.
This is considered an act of cheating in the game, but because it’s easy for players to get away with it, it continues to happen unnoticed by the referee and match officials (although those watching from home or in the stadium may call it’s bluff), which further encourages teams to attempt this trick.
Why it’s more common in stadium competitions
This practice is probably much more common in smaller-scale competitions than we realize, because we aren’t viewing footage of what’s going on like we are for stadium competitions (whether they be televised or broadcasted to the audience on an overhead screen), because these games aren’t recorded like stadium competitions are.
We just tend to notice diving more often in stadium competitions because it is being recorded, and we’re able to view the players from a different perspective than we would just watching a game from an audience.
Regardless, stadium and professional competitions experience this phenomenon more often than smaller games simply because the competition is higher stakes.
Players are going to stress more about winning a game if they’re playing the world cup than they are for their high school soccer team, so that pressure is more likely to cause them to go to extreme efforts to try to win a game.
Can a referee tell if a player is faking an injury?
Faking an injury is much riskier than it was in the past. In the past, the referee would be watching from the sidelines, and if the player who faked the injury is all the way on the other side of the field, it would be very believable that they were actually injured.
Plus, it wasn’t a common practice at the start of professional soccer, so referees would give their players the benefit of the doubt.
But with the new technology of a video assistant referee often available in professional stadium competitions, referees can review video footage of an incident after it happens, which will provide a close-up view of what happened.
Once reviewing the footage, the referee can instantly tell that the injury was obviously faked and penalize the player who feigned the injury rather than the opposing team had they not reviewed the footage.
This has cut down on the number of people who get caught doing this, but players who attempt to do this have to be really good at acting and actually make contact with an opposing player.
Outside of stadium competitions where such technology is available, this practice is still quite common in smaller-scale competitions. This is because players are more likely to get away with diving, depending on the referee’s opinion.
Watching from afar, it’s harder for the referee to tell whether or not a player is actually injured or not, and with the fast-paced environment, they’re going to use their best judgments to make calls.
With the phenomenon of foul simulation becoming more widespread, most referees are aware of this possibility and will penalize the player if they notice that they are obviously faking an injury.
Penalty for faking an injury in soccer
If a referee or match official notices that a player has faked their injury, they will receive a penalty for it, rather than penalize the opposing team like the player hoped.
In the game rules for soccer, it states that any attempt to deceive the referee by faking an injury or pretending a foul has occurred will be treated like a foul known as unsportsmanlike conduct.
Such a foul is penalized with a yellow card. This mild penalty was recently implemented into the rule book because diving and feigning an injury has become such a widespread trend.
If that player, after receiving a yellow card for foul simulation, receives another yellow card for any reason, the two yellow cards are automatically counted as a red card.
Red cards mean an automatic dismissal from the field and no chance to rejoin the match. So, while faking an injury can lead to someone being removed from the game, it doesn’t automatically dismiss them from the field.
Should there be a bigger penalty?
There are many people who believe that players who try to fake an injury to win a game should receive a red card rather than a yellow one.
This is because feigning an injury, if left unnoticed, could cost the opposing team the game and give a team the win who earned it unfairly.
While foul simulation is an example of unsporting behavior and is thus grouped with all other examples and must be treated as such, it can be argued that this way of cheating is more severe than other types of unsporting behavior.
Whether or not diving becomes a red card in the future would likely depend on how big of an issue it becomes in the future, and if players continue to do it despite the pushback of receiving a yellow card if they get caught.
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