Diving – when a player attempts to gain an advantage by feigning a fall or an injury, to make it appear as though a foul has been committed against them.
There’s a real problem with diving in the World Cup. But, I’m not referring to how much it occurs, or how it goes unpunished, or how it impacts the legitimacy of the sport of soccer (or football, if you prefer).
That’s normally the road a discussion on diving heads down, but I want to talk about a different problem with diving in soccer. It’s a problem I notice when a player dives, but also when they are legitimately fouled, or when they commit a foul.
Here’s what I see: these amazing athletes are essentially running full-out for 90 minutes, while fervently defending and attacking in turns. It’s a tough physical and technical game being played at full speed, which means that sometimes these players fall, or trip, or are tripped, or get hit, and go down.
But every time one of these things happens, there’s (at least) one player rolling around on the ground crying foul to anyone who will listen, and another player standing nearby, with a look of shock that anyone might think he’s done wrong. And then one minute later, their roles are reversed, but their reactions are the same.
Every player thinks that someone must be punished every time they hit the ground, but never thinks he should receive the same consequences when someone else goes down instead.
What I see here isn’t a problem with players diving, being fouled or fouling others; at the core, what I see is a problem with justice.
I watch a game and I see the same player clamour for justice and seek to avoid it in turns, depending on if they are the victim or the perpetrator. He demands justice! He shouts and cries for it – there are rules, after all, and they’ve been broken, and that matters! Until, of course, he’s the one who broke them.
I see all these players with a warped sense of justice. And that really bothers me. But I think what bothers me the most about it is that I can relate. I see myself in their actions, and I wish I didn’t, but I know I’m often just the same.
I mean, I love justice when I get hurt. I desperately want to see the offending party get the consequences they deserve. I believe that their hurtfulness was malicious and intentional and can’t be ignored. I’m that player, rolling around on the ground, trying to make sure everyone knows I’ve been wronged here. I might tell others about the “foul” that’s been committed against me. I might set out to create some consequences on my own, whatever that might look like. Either way, I demand justice because that’s what I deserve.
Just like these players, when I am wronged by someone and they are punished, I get up and grin because justice has been served, and I go on my way. And the next thing I know, I’m on the other side of the story. I’ve hurt someone, and I’m the one who deserves the consequences.
Suddenly, justice doesn’t seem quite so important. After all, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I may have done wrong, but my intentions were good. Let’s just bypass justice this time, okay?
So there it is: that same warped sense of justice I see on the soccer pitch, rearing its ugly head in my own heart. I am selfish when it comes to justice. I want it when I am wronged, but I want to avoid it when I deserve the consequences. I assume that others deserve justice, but that I deserve forgiveness.
The worst part is that I know when I am in the wrong. I know when I’ve done something that should earn me some consequence, whatever it may be, but I’d still rather bend justice to my own selfish agenda and get away with things. I only see justice from my side.
So, when I’m watching the World Cup and I see these players trying to warp justice to suit them, it hits home. Because I do the exact same thing, even though I know it’s not right. I see it and I don’t like it, because it reflects my own problem with justice.
Have you experienced this problem of one-sided justice?