Eduardo punishment may prove pivotal
The buzz of media coverage following the Eduardo penalty incident will have undoubtedly contributed to UEFA’s decision to charge the Arsenal striker with ‘deceiving the referee.’
And whist most fans would agree that diving is a part of the game that must be stamped out, questions will be raised over the way in which UEFA have dealt with the issue.
Faced with a two-match ban, the European governing body’s decision to charge Eduardo has infuriated manager Arsene Wenger, who labelled the move as ‘a disgrace’.
Nobody likes a cheat. As football fans we all want to see the game played fairly and in a sporting manner. The sometimes cringe-inducing sight of a player tumbling to the ground after little or no contact is a spectacle that wouldn’t be missed.
There is no excuse for a dive such as Eduardo’s against Celtic on Wednesday night. The player ran after the ball probably expecting contact from the on-rushing goalkeeper, but there was very little or none at all – and the little contact that there may have been cannot justify the way he plunged to the ground.
But this is not the first, nor the worst dive we’ve ever seen.
What makes this case interesting is UEFA’s decision. One cannot help but wonder what will happen the next time a player in the Premier League wins a penalty by ‘deceiving the referee’.
Does UEFA’s swift action mark the introduction of a new set of methods to stop the cheats? Will all ‘divers’ now face post-match punishment? And can all of a referee’s decisions now be questioned after a match?
It is precisely this last point that has enraged Wenger. The Frenchman believes that this incident has ‘changed the rules’ of football, allowing each and every refereeing decision to be looked at after the match.
But what is particularly interesting about the whole situation is that during a match, if a referee believes that a player has dived in order to gain an advantage for his team, a yellow card is the instant punishment. If the referee had correctly spotted Eduardo’s dive on Wednesday, he would have been cautioned.
So how can the same offence justify a two-match ban?
It is the fact that Eduardo unfairly won and scored the penalty to benefit his team that makes the two scenarios different. If the referee had booked him, there would have been no penalty, and no goal.
Wenger has branded the situation a ‘witch-hunt’, which perhaps is an over-reaction. But by charging Eduardo, UEFA are sending out a clear message: cheating will not be tolerated.
And whilst Wenger has the right to feel aggrieved that it is his player that has been made the scapegoat, UEFA’s course of action could benefit the game in the long term by enforcing harsher punishments for simulation.