World Cup mania: let the dives begin!

Hockey players need to take some lessons from the real pros when it comes to "diving"

Football fans everywhere, rejoice: the World Cup is still on!

Non-football fans everywhere, take heart: the World Cup will soon be over!

Yes, it’s that time again, when enthusiasts of the beautiful game we call soccer and the rest of the world calls football indulge their passion. The top 32 teams from around the globe are winnowed down to two, who will play a single game to determine who is crowned world champion and who is relegated to “Oh yeah, them”. Along the way old rivalries are renewed, new stars are born, and England supporters once again experience the agony of early defeat.

I lived in Britain for five years, and saw the passion with which the English greet the World Cup. Unfortunately for them, England has only won the trophy once, in 1966, and ever since then fans have told themselves, when the World Cup rolls around again, “This is our time,” only to be disappointed once more. In that way they’re rather like Canucks fans, except the English—lucky dogs—only have to go through it once every four years.

My husband is English, and although he’s long since discarded football as a first (sporting) love and embraced hockey, we still end up with the World Cup on the telly when the competition is on. A few things I’ve noted in passing:

– Football fans, in their dress and makeup and accessories, make Saskatchewan Roughriders fans look positively low-key. Watermelons? Pah. Step it up, Rider Nation.

– We might think that “diving” is blatant in hockey, but it’s a positive epidemic at the World Cup. All it seems to take is an opposing player being within shouting distance and someone will drop to the grass as if he’s been tasered, writhing in such agony that you expect a priest to come on the pitch to administer last rites. Some of the more accomplished divers might want to consider a career in acting when their football days are over.

– Unlike hockey—where a 60 minute game takes close on three hours to play—football doesn’t drag its feet. A 90 minute game is over in 90 minutes, give or take a bit of stoppage time and a 15 minute interval. This is good for keeping things moving on the pitch, but not so good for bathroom/refreshment breaks at home.

– One thing football does have in common with hockey is that no player has ever persuaded a referee to give a penalty when the ref has decided not to.

– A player who has received three suspensions for biting opponents is not “colorful”; he’s a thug.

– The enthusiasm of football commentators knows no bounds. One described a particularly good goal as “Like cream: something you want to pour over strawberries on a warm summer evening.” I’d like to hear Jim Hughson top that.

So long live the beautiful game; until hockey season starts, at least. Players, you have three months to work on those dives. If you need some pointers, just watch football and see how the pros do it.


Barbara Roden

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