Don't blame refs for bad acting

Brazil's Felipe Melo yells at Netherlands' Arjen Robben after he was fouled during World Cup...

Brazil's Felipe Melo yells at Netherlands' Arjen Robben after he was fouled during World Cup quarterfinal play in Port Elizabeth. (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:04 PM ET

CAPE TOWN -- Actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Charlize Theron were among those in attendance at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Both actors, among the best in their trade, watching soccer the way it's meant to be played by the Germans -- strong, direct, cunning.

The spectacle was far removed from what has been on display in South Africa. The play-acting on the field at this World Cup has been deplorable.

As a true soccer lover, a guy who has played the game and now follows it, it breaks my heart to see such embellishment and sketchy tactics employed by the world's best players. It's wholly unnecessary and is an all too frustrating aspect of what otherwise is a beautiful game.

When you hear the neutral or non-soccer fan complain about diving and play-acting, it's annoying. We get it: you don't like soccer and take liberties with the game whenever possible. But as a soccer aficionado, the casual viewer warrants deprecation of the game, no matter how bothersome.

It's not about the pace or the score, but the way players fake injury when suffering the slightest contact that deserves criticism. I have defended certain tactics before: giving time to catch a breath or change the momentum of the game.

But the way players have been jumping with their chest out, kicking their knees back makes me sick. No matter the contact, players have hit the ground with far too much regularity here in South Africa.

And the reaction of South African rugby fans is priceless. This is a group who has strength in numbers and find it comical how soccer players negatively react to contact. And rightfully so.

The play-acting and exaggeration of fouls by next-level kind of talent is nothing short of disgusting. It's unnecessary and a drain on the game.

The so-called diving and faking injury has lessened as the tournament has gone on but it is still a very real and important part of the game. Match officials have been given the ability to caution players. The legislation was supposed to deter the issue. But it hasn't worked.

It's almost unfair that officials have taken the brunt of criticism this World Cup, with players palpable to their failures. This isn't to excuse poor officiating, but the players haven't made it any easier. The putrid exaggeration of injury leaves the soccer lover and casual viewer alike dumbfounded. And puts the referee in a far too difficult position.

Players must be accountable for their actions. Don't blame FIFA. Don't blame referees.

FIFA's fair play edict reads: "Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure."

If this were actually the case, very few players would still be taking part.

While FIFA concerns itself with Uruguay's Luis Suarez handball, the number of shady injuries and faking injury is much worse and is far more disconcerting. A desperate handball off the goal line is a death wish no matter how you cut it. If Ghana's Asamoah Gyan had buried the penalty, as he should, there would be no Suarez issue.

One incident is hardly enough to make bold statements as such. A better sample has been obtained over the course of the tournament. The tipping point was the Brazil-Netherlands quarterfinal. The match official lost control of the game because of the play-acting.

It wasn't entirely his fault. Once again, blame the players for resorting to desperate tactics. The worst of the worst was Dutch winger Arjen Robben. He's a pleasure to watch, except when he's diving and hitting the ground. Earning the call is one thing. Hurting the integrity of the game is another.

Robben's actions have been deplorable and not suited toward any player with any self-respect. His cheating -- and I'll call it cheating -- is nauseating for a player among the brightest talents in the tournament. Yet his flopping leaves a sour taste, not only for the non-soccer fan but also the devoted supporter.

Brazil's Felipe Melo certainly deserved a red card for his stamp, but Robben's dishonesty deserves likewise.

Stand up and play the game the way it's meant to be played. Face up against your opponent and win one-on-one battles. For a lack of a better term, play the game like a self-respecting man. Anything less is a disservice to the sport and those individuals who had sacrificed so much more to bring integrity to the game.


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