Cristiano Ronaldo dives, or, more properly speaking, he simulates fouls. It’s true, and I readily concede that point. This column, or more accurately, this particular one that I’m writing, isn’t about trying to say that Ronaldo doesn’t dive, or the slightly less controversial argument that simulating is a natural part of the sport, and should be embraced rather than condemned.
In fact, I hate diving, and I think that it should be punished much more harshly, in post-facto referee review sessions, with either fines or suspensions (to be honest, though, this particular way to prevent simulation could be pretty hard to implement, just like goal line video cameras or sensors and all that rubbish).
This column is to expose the treatment of Cristiano Ronaldo, and to a lesser extent Didier Drogba, by the British press and some fans as what it is: blatant, unabashed racism.
There’s a trend in the English press, and in the game in general, to create a dichotomy between the “good ol’ English lads who’re out there giving it all for their team (or country)” and the “foreign, greasy, cheating dirtbags, who ‘go to ground with just the slightest gust of wind blowing in their direction’” (from the English site “Bleacherreport.com, affiliated with the Telegraph). This same website wasn’t defending Cristiano Ronaldo from claims of “diving,” but was, oddly, making the case that there were more players out there who dove just as often as him. Their examples? “Didier Drogba [and] Deco.” “Hell, sometime’s Drogba just like[s] to go for a leap of faith when no one is near. Yet, still looking for a penalty.” The argument was, basically, “Ronaldo isn’t the only foreigner who dives in the EPL! Look out!” The article does deserve some credit, though, because they do say “It’s the English media that has got everyone thinking Ronaldo is the one that invented the art-form of diving.” Of course! But, of course the real problem is “the culture in which players are being brought up now from Portugal, France, Spain, Italy and even England.” To be fair, they did include “and even England.” But honestly, this smacks of racism.
I mean, come on, people. Let’s be realistic: the main headlines in English newspapers tend to criticize foreign players for being divers–“Winker Ronaldo is diving, again” (The Sun, 9/13/2008) or “Cristiano Ronaldo Urged to ‘Start Diving’ By Real Madrid Teammates” (Goal.com, 10/4/2009), or even entire foreign countries for being racists: “The leaders of England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup yesterday attempted to regain the initiative, taking the fight to rivals such as Spain by inviting comparisons with its record on tackling racism.” (The Guardian, 10/9/2009)
In comparison, whenever an Englishman simulates, he tends to either be portrayed as a hero who would give anything for his team or country (for example, after his dive against Hungary in the 2006 World Cup, Steven Gerrard was applauded by former England striker Ian Wright–BBC.com, 5/31/2006), or sparks a one sided, good faith article about the player (for example, when Wayne Rooney dove to get a penalty in a recent match against Arsenal, he was treated warmly by the press, who called him “honest”–BBC.com, 9/3/2009).
Another ridiculous example of the racism displayed by the English media is in the coverage of Rooney’s ejection from the 2006 World Cup after STOMPING ON A PLAYER’S BALLS!
As one can hear, the commentators are blaming Rooney’s act of blatant violence on Ronaldo, rather than condemning the act itself. This was actually the universal reaction that the English press had: rather than talk about how horrifying that act was, they demonized Cristiano Ronaldo for “winking” at the Referee, and talked about Rooney’s feelings of sadness after being ejected: “The players told me not to worry, that it wasn’t my fault. I appreciated that. And that’s when I felt a few tears in my eyes. I don’t cry often and I hadn’t cried when I’d been sent off” (The Sun, 10/3/2006).
I guess I agree with the English columnist Des Kelly, who talks in his column about the inherent hypocrisy of being a soccer fan–diving is awful, and a terrible sin (unless it’s by one of us). “The same contradictions will be evident when Michael Owen trots out. Surely this is a player who has been involved in many more diving controversies than Eduardo? Ah, but he’s an English diver. He also reserves his best work for when England play Argentina. So that’s all right then” (Daily Mail, 8/29/09). Exactly.
As a Real Madrid fan, it’s easy for me to defend Cristiano. He’s one of us. But as a Spaniard, and a fan of Football worldwide, it’s incredibly offensive to me to see the treatment of foreign players in the English media. And even Des Kelly, who seems to understand this problem, still makes the same remarks: “Cristiano Ronaldo should collect enough diving bans to earn himself an entire gap year at Real Madrid. Barcelona captain Carles Puyol and his new colleague Zlatan Ibrahimovic routinely spend so much time rolling around for no discernible reason they might as well retire now, while Chelsea’s Didier Drogba may have to consider an entirely new career as a Denise Lewis lookalike.”
The players he cites? Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and African (Ivory Coast).