Like many fans and casual observers around the world, my life has been inundated with soccer (or fútbol) over the past few days. This is not a complaint; I really love watching the World Cup.
Generally speaking, I have never been able to get excited about watching soccer, especially American Major League Soccer, because the matches usually consist of about 800 completed passes and 0 goals. However, the World Cup is different; it's that special time every four years that we get to see some of the best athletes from around the globe compete for a gold trophy that they get to borrow until the next cup (and yes, I believe soccer players are some of the best, if not the best, athletes). The World Cup is basically like watching every nation's all-star team. In addition to seeing some fantastic soccer, we also get to witness endearing, hilarious or, most often, terrifying displays of nationalism.
After viewing soccer for many hours over the past several days, I have a new rule suggestion I would like to propose to FIFA (and we know FIFA loves making up their own rules). My new rule would mandate that when a player falls to the ground and writhes in pain for an inordinate amount of time, he must be removed from the match. The team would be allowed to substitute another player in the place of the injured one (who would inevitably be replaced by another substitute after violating this proposed rule himself). This new policy would be a win-win because players who are legitimately injured should be pulled from a match for their own safety, and those who are faking injury would pay a price for cheating.
Soccer is not alone in its flopper/faker problem. Flopping has become prevalent in other sports, like basketball. However, basketball is doing something about it. NBA players now receive hefty fines for flopping in games (see Dwayne Wade in the 2014 NBA finals). Soccer seems content to ignore the fact that the faking of injuries, and flopping, detracts from the sport as a whole. It kills momentum and excitement, which is why most people are watching in the first place.
After watching the majority of every game played this World Cup, I have been more than slightly annoyed by the prevalence of world class athletes falling to the ground and fake-crying, just to get a call. In half of these cases, replays show that the "offended" player (actor) was barely even touched, or in some instances, not touched at all. If I just wanted to see wealthy, muscular people pretend to be injured, I'd watch The Expendables 2, or WWE wrestling. I don't watch these things because I find them profoundly uninteresting. Furthermore, I would bet that even fans of over-the-top action movies and professional wrestling would agree that faking injuries has no place in soccer.
When players crumble and grab their legs as if they've been shot after being lightly kicked in their shin-guard, they are appealing to the referees' sympathy. They do this hoping to benefit from a free kick or a penalty. Sometimes this tactic works, and the player gets the call he wants. Other times, as was the case with Germany's Thomas Muller in Monday's match against Portugal, flopping enrages an opponent (Pepe), causing a foolish overreaction that results in a red card, and as a result, ejection from the match. In numerous cases, flopping may give a player a strategic advantage, but what these athletes should understand is that they're embarrassing themselves and the sport they love. Flopping is a cheap trick that should not be tolerated by FIFA, soccer fans, or the players who play the right way.
Duncan M. Hill is a former YMCA and Ferndale Middle School soccer player (midfielder) now living in Baltimore. He received his masters of fine arts in Photographic and Electronic Media from the Maryalnd Institute College of Art in 2014. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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