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Diving not a Young issue for the Premier League

Yesterday was supposed to be a glorious mid-April afternoon of football, as fans across the country focused their attention to Old Trafford and Wembley, with Manchester United looking to restore their gap at the top of the table and Spurs and Chelsea playing out an all-Londoner semifinal to gain a spot in the FA Cup final.

It turned out to be an advert for two of the worst and most debated problems in modern football – the need for goal-line technology and diving.

Despite Martin Atkinon’s shocking decision to award Chelsea a goal that never was, Ashley Young managed to repeat the feat he achieved last week, by grabbing the spotlight for the wrong reasons, following his theatrical tumble against Aston Villa.

The incident, for those of you that haven’t endured the countless replays on Match of the Day 2 – whose level of credibility is decreasing at an alarming speed and with shocking regularity  – saw Villa defender Ciaran Clark sticking his leg out in a bid to win the ball, with Young reaching the turf after his left foot had been struck.

Young did nothing to maintain his balance and went down rather comically, exaggerating the contact as United were awarded a second controversial penalty in as many weeks, hence the outrage from the media, fellow professionals (Ryan Taylor branded Young “the worst cheat in football” on Twitter) and those conspiracy theorists who are always eager to clutch at straws.

Ironically, the media did not report that many United fans were themselves left with a sour taste in their mouths after the incident or that Sir Alex Ferguson was quick to admit that Young had gone down easily.

In fact, even the fact Young was actually hit by Clark’s foot was overlooked, as was the fact that United were denied a clear penalty in the second half for a blatant handball.

Diving, simulating and making the most of a contact, are issues that have plagued football, including the Premier League, for at least 20 years now which is, perhaps, the reason why is so surprising to see Young being singled out so sharply.

For years English football considered it a “European” problem but, while it’s surely more developed in countries such as Italy, Spain or Portugal, England has seen its fair share of controversies over the years.

Remember Jurgen Klinsmann and his diving celebration? The Spurs import had been accused of football’s cardinal sin and replied by mocking his detractors after he scored.

Arsenal’s Invincibles were a much tougher group than the current Gunners squad but Robert Pires never did too much to stay on his feet (to borrow a quote from the Ray Wilkins’ manual for aspiring commentators) and Didier Drogba’s alarming loss of balance has always been quite suspicious for such a big man.

United themselves weren’t awarded as much as attention as Young is now even when Cristiano Ronaldo donned the number 7 at Old Trafford and indulged, perhaps a bit too often, in going to down after a challenge, even though he was on the receiving end of some brutal tackles week after week.

Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez have a knack for going down theatrically as well, yet their attempts to steal Tom Daley’s place at the Olympics haven’t received the same coverage that Young has received in the last two weeks.

If anything the focus was shifted on Suarez needing protection, following one of the many rants Kenny Dalglish delivered this year.

Diving and cheating are not tolerable in football, just like in any other sport, but, at times, referees seem to ignore a foul unless the player falls to the ground. Then and only then, the officials look remotely interested in the event.

After the events of the last two weeks Ashley Young doesn’t deserve much sympathy and many United fans would rather see him not indulging in that sort of behaviour but, like it or not, diving or making the most of the contact is an integral part of modern football, just as much as SKY, clubs going into administration every second day and ridiculous transfer fees.

 

Daniele (@MUFC_dan87)