The Italian Way

Yesterday I wrote about the Brazilian Way and today I turn my attention to the Italians. The Italian Way, simply put, is to hit the deck hard and often.

Probably one of the most troublesome aspects of soccer that casual observers and newcomers notice and comment on is the propensity for players to fake fouls. In soccer parlance, this is called “diving,” and although it isn’t limited to soccer only, in no other sport is it done with such theatrical flair. Typically, a player hits the deck with the slightest touch (or no touch at all), rolls around on the pitch writhing in agony, and is attended to by a bevy of trainers armed with a mini-ER and a stretcher. The player is carted to the sideline, spritzed with the “magic spray,” which works its usual wonders, and suddenly the player pops up and reenters the match. Usually several of these miracle healings take place per match. Oral Roberts would be jealous.

And among world footballers, nobody takes a dive like the glamorous Italians–when they go down, they go down with style and panache. To wit, yesterday’s cruel end to Australia’s football dreams when Italian Fabio Grosso went down in the box under Socceroo defender Lucas Neill’s sliding challenge in the closing seconds of their second round match. The referee, who was trailing the play, pointed toward the mark, and Italian star Francesco Totti knocked home the winning PK sending the Azzuri into the quarterfinal and the Socceroos packing to the Land Down Under.

It was an artful dive which Grosso sold well. Although there was relatively little, if any, contact made, I can see how the center ref was fooled on this one. It appeared from his angle that Neill did induce the fall, seeing as how he ended up beneath Grosso, looking awkward and plenty guilty. In my view, a sliding tackle in the box in the closing seconds of a match is a foolish decision with high risk. Neill could have kept his feet and closed down and perhaps contained Grosso while help arrived, but instead he went for broke and got burned. Grosso sensed the opportunity and did what any international footballer would do in that situation–hit the deck.

Although I don’t really see a grave injustice here (the Italians played well a man down and deserved to win as much or more than the Aussies), I would agree with those who say that this takes place too much. One such critic is Eric Cantona, a former French and Manchester United star featured in Nike’s latest ad campaign, Joga Bonito, which in Portuguese means to “play beautiful.”

Cantona is clearly “old school” and has had his fill of such shenanigans. If you follow this link to “Joga TV” and then click “The Beginning” you’ll get his entertaining take on the whole issue. Still, I’m betting that Cantona took a few dives “back in the day” too.

Message to the Italians: You have a talented team, a wonderful country and a legacy for all things beautiful. Stop your whining, take off the Versace shades, and play beautiful.

  1. hermit Jeremy

    Though I too am of the anybody but Brazil camp, I have been pleasantly surprised by their play. Not that they don’t always play a beautiful ball… but, if I remember correctly, four years ago Brazil spent most of their game on hitting deck. This year, however, they seem to have gotten their sea-legs and are a little more sturdy…

    Ghana is giving them a great fight…

  2. hermit Jeremy

    but, it looks like, with their second goal just scored, Ghana might not be able to catch up since they haven’t been able to convert their many, many opportunities into goals

  3. hermit Jeremy

    the problem with blogging before the fact is that now ghana has completely fallen apart… however, they fought bravely for 80 minutes.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    hermit Jeremey–

    Thanks for stopping by and “coming out of your shell,” so to speak. 🙂

    And thanks for the match update. I’ve been at work and wasn’t able to follow it much. Sounds like Ronaldo may not be “too fat” to score some more goals, eh?

    I haven’t seen Brazil play yet, but I know that many echo your thoughts that, once again, they appear to be the team to beat. But I also like Argentina’s chances as well as Germany’s. The Germans are more known for “Terminator”-like efficiency than passion, but they seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves out there. I think their young coach, who looks like he could take the pitch himself, has had a lot to do with that.

    Truth be told, I love good football regardless of who’s playing. May it never end.

  5. hermit Jeremy

    Sadly, Ghana lost 3-Nil. They had several good looks and one, if not two, very unlucky bounces. The last five minutes of play, though, Richard Kingston ran a workshop… this was after Ze Roberto’s easy third goal on a ball served by Ricardinho. Ronaldo, Cafu, and Juan were all stopped in world-class style.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t watch the Spanish team melt-down…

  6. Mike the Eyeguy


    Ghana has much to be proud of, and who knows what might have happened if Essian had played? I think that at the least, it would have been closer and more hotly contested to the end.

    I saw much of the Spain-France match and Spain looked good early on but just couldn’t keep their shape for the entire match. Zidane’s goal was a beauty. I’m not a France fan, but I did enjoy watching him work today–he’s simply one of the very best.

  7. AtlantaBob

    Italy is my second favorite team, after the Americans. They are amazing defenders – the best in the world at that half of the game (I realize most people don’t consider defense to be half the game).

    That said, the Italians are masters at acting and diving. They get rewarded for it (the Aussie goal). It hurts the game and we need yellows for acting and diving. I propose a new card – the pink card – only for acting and diving. One pink card and you play with a tiara, two pinks – you are sent off.

    Alot of the teams don’t overly act/dive – the Americans are OK about it. I think we had one player taken off on a stretcher – Reyna – and he was subbed out later for his real injury. McBride walked off the field bloody to get his butterfly.

    The game needs to stop sending players off on stretchers who are acting. Give them a tiara.

    Yellows and reds are for dangerous and unsportsmanlike play – not for hard takles. Hard tackles, even meaty fouls, are a part of the game.

  8. Mike the Eyeguy

    Atlanta Bob–

    Good to hear from you. I like your style–pink cards and tiaras are pure genius.

    Believe it or not, I actually saw a yellow for a dive in the box the other day (I think it may have been Spain v. France). Yeah, the Americans and the Brits too are pretty good about not going thespian on everyone out there. McBride’s bloody mug will go down in the annals of US soccer, inspiring generations yet unborn.

    Hey, if you don’t mind, I might borrow your phrase, “meaty fouls” for future use. I’ll be sure to give you a hat tip.

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