Craig Salmon’s soapbox: Time to give football’s divers their marching orders

Preston North End's Sean Maguire has a word with referee Geoff Eltringham after he was booked for simulation in a game against Bristol City last season
Preston North End's Sean Maguire has a word with referee Geoff Eltringham after he was booked for simulation in a game against Bristol City last season

I have to hold my hand up – I once condoned the act of diving on a football pitch. Playing in a Sunday League game many moons ago, one of my team-mates won us a penalty in, shall we say, very dubious fashion.

I won’t name the said player but it is fair to say he was known for being a lovable rogue and a bit of a ‘cheeky chappy’.

But anyway, I saw it clearly from my vantage point on the edge of the area as my team-mate – with the ball at his feet heading away from goal with a defender right behind him – deliberately kicked the back of his left foot with his right to mimic the sight and sound of a trip before falling to the ground in a crumpled heap.

I must admit I could not believe my eyes and neither could the rest of the players at the blatant dive.

However, to our astonishment, the referee for this particular match must have forgotten to put his glasses on before the game.

Immediately, he blew his whistle and pointed authoritatively to the spot.

Surely the referee should have realised by the reaction of us all that he had been hoodwinked?

The opposition were apoplectic with rage at the injustice, while my team-mate sloped off with a mischievous smirk on his face.

Being the designated penalty taker, I took full advantage of the opportunity to boost my goalscoring tally – once I had managed to wipe the smile off my face at my team-mate’s audacity.

The act of cheating set us up for a thumping 5-1 win and provided us with much merriment in the pub after the game.

Looking back, I feel a slight sense of guilt – even if it was a local league pub game – especially if I consider how angry I would have been if the boot had been on the other foot and it was my team which had been the victim of such deceit.

It is why I can fully understand when I watch defenders on television react with such anger when a Premier League striker flings himself to the floor after the merest of touches.

To be fair, simulation is nothing new – it’s been around in football for a number of years. Indeed who can forget the theatrics of the West Germany team – particularly that of Jurgen Klinsmann – in the final of Italia ’90, which was predictably won courtesy of a penalty from Andreas Brehme.

Yet nearly three decades on, diving is as much a scourge on the game now as it was back then.

I would like to see blatant diving treated in much the same way as a professional foul or deliberate handball on the goalline. Never mind a yellow card, anyone caught trying to deceive an official by diving should be handed a straight red.