UEFA needs to take stand on cheats

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Eduardo's theatrics this week against Glasgow Celtic leads to hope good things will happen in football.

Eduardo did nothing unusual in the Champions League qualifying game between his Arsenal side and the Scottish side. What he did happens many matches multiple times.He cheated.

He pushed the ball into the penalty area and when Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc came out to challenge him, Eduardo went down as if felled by a sniper. It didn't matter that he hadn't been touched. Spanish referee Manuel Gonzalez awarded a penalty.

The penalty has created uproar from the Scottish Football Association and a review by UEFA. Under a UEFA disciplinary regulation (Article 10, Paragraph 1c), "players may be suspended for two competition matches, or for a specified period, for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment and thereby causing him to make an incorrect decision."

It says nothing about the referee making the wrong call, but that's another matter.

UEFA's action caused a reaction from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who called it a "witch hunt," indicating there is no way anyone can judge a player's intent.

"This charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee," Wenger said. "Having watched the pictures again, there was nothing conclusive. It singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. UEFA has taken action that is not defendable."

All this has sparked the expected onslaught of pros and cons and the dissection of simulation or diving in the sport.

Article 10, Paragraph 1c, is not a rule used often, which is surprising considering that simulation and diving has become an art form in the sport.

Much is being made of Eduardo being singled out since so many players make a habit of diving, including perhaps the world's best player and diver, Cristiano Ronaldo. What's really amusing is that so many players actually admit to diving with some pride.

Instead of arguing about the merits of what UEFA is doing to Eduardo and whether it's justified, why not celebrate the beginning of what should be a new era in enforcement.

Is there a better time than nine months before the next World Cup to send a strong message to all the players that while the review of what Eduardo did may be unusual, it won't be the last review?

Instead of debating whether UEFA is unfair to Eduardo, why not debate why soccer's governing bodies aren't doing this more often?

Just before the World Cup of 2002, FIFA put new emphasis on professional fouls. The hope was players committing cynical fouls that prevented clear scoring opportunities would be immediately red-carded. It gave pause to players who would otherwise have committed a foul and suffered a yellow card happily.

This latest brouhaha is the culmination of not just the culture of diving and cheating, which has invaded the game, it's also the result of a laissez faire attitude of coaches (except when it happens to their team) and soccer's governing bodies refusal to clamp down on a regular basis.

There have been enough incidents of cheating to cause great embarrassment to the sport and those that run it. Will it take something like this to decide a World Cup final before everyone gets on the same page?

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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