I watched the second half of Liverpool’s home match in Europe last night, after learning they were 1-0 down. As injury time begun, I was waiting for their moment of luck to strike. So far their results have usually come from own goals, playing against ten men, accidental goals, or penalties, so I knew something had to happen.
When Steven Gerrard jumped to meet the ball inside the penalty area, I can’t say I was too surprised to see him throw himself to the ground. I’m even less surprised that no-one will come out and say that he dived.
In his interview after the game, he was asked whether it was a penalty. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ll have to see it again.” Now this is what we usually hear from managers, who have yet to see a replay of an incident. That’s fair enough. But if you’ve been fouled in the area, you know you’ve been fouled in the area, why the hell would you need to see a replay? Gerrard knew full well he’d played for the penalty, yet no-one called him out on it.
Cristiano Ronaldo came to the Premiership as an 18-year-old lad and quickly developed the reputation of a diver. He was awfully skinny back then, though just as pacey, but he fell to the ground with ease, under the slightest contact, or sometimes, no contact at all.
Since then, he has improved on his diving, yet he is still no angel. Regardless, he gets kicked about the pitch and I’ve stopped begruding him like I used to, as I see how often he isn’t given freekicks when he’s fouled (it’s the drama queen strop he throws after he’s not awarded a decision that I begrudge!).
The differences between these two players are fairly obvious. Ronaldo is a bit of a nancy boy, a continental shownman, whilst Gerrard is supposedly a ‘big and hard’ Englishman. Yet their similiarities are obvious. They both dive. Yet only one gets branded a diver by all, whilst Gerrard gets away with it. His most famous dive surely has to be the 2005 European Cup final, whilst his most embarrassing came against Andorra for England.
Whilst some braver people will admit the man dives, it is generally overlooked. Some people even defend Gerrard’s diving, with Ian Wright claiming Gerrard was entitled to dive because foreigners would do it to England, after diving in the box against Hungary!
The Guardian has before given an honest write-up on Gerrard, although this is a rare example from the English press, who have on occasion printed Ronaldo’s face on the back page with “CHEATER” written over it. “Lennon plays in Gerrard on the corner of the six-yard box and he dives PATHETICALLY, but we won’t mention it because he’s not Cristiano Ronaldo, eh?”
The linesman was at fault here, flagging for a penalty that never should have been given, but Gerrard played for that penalty, throwing himself to the floor after jumping in to the challenge. He admitted that if a penalty like that had been awarded against Liverpool, he’d be fuming. It was soft and was only won thanks to Gerrard’s play-acting.
Whatever your opinion on diving, whether it should be allowed or not, my frustration arises from the fact Gerrard is painted as this ‘British bulldog’ type player, who is tough and hard and sets an example. He’s even condemned players who dive, claiming he goes around to the foreign players telling them that diving isn’t tolerated at Liverpool. Yet he’s one of the worst culprits for diving in this country, but everyone are more than happy to turn a blind eye to it.
This situation wouldn’t have half as irritating if we didn’t have our own player who experiences all the negativities that come with having this reputation. He is booed wherever he goes, referees are inclined to wave play on, assuming he is cheating, and people happily brand him as a ‘diver’. When Gerrard behaves in exactly the same way, going to ground too easily, turning sharply to complain to the referee, nobody bats an eyelid. Rather than say he dives, they call his penalty decisions “dubious” or “controversial”. St. Stevie Me, eh?