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Diving and Angle Shooting: Where Football and Poker Collide Unfavorably
What is your abiding memory of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil?
Is it the spanking the Dutch handed out to the Spanish? The thunderous volleys of Tim Cahill or James Rodriguez?
Is it the host of beauties the TV cameramen keep picking out of the crowds?
Do you know what my abiding memory is?
The diving, the cheating and the apparent acceptance of it in our modern game. It disgusts me, it appalls me and it worries me.
Play Acting "Part of the Game"
My son is a late bloomer as far as football is concerned. He's just started playing the game at 13 years old.
How will he react when he is challenged in the penalty box? Before you answer that question bear in mind that I have just bought him a Portugal shirt with the name ‘Ronaldo’ written on the back.
When I played football I would never dive and I don’t remember it really being that prevalent in the games I played in.
These days I wouldn’t be surprised to see diving as part of the FIFA 2015 video game. It’s become so prevalent the commentators actually criticize players when they don’t dive.
It caused an almighty furor during ITV coverage of the Germany v Portugal group game after Thomas Mueller’s play acting and the stupidity of Pepe led to his sending off.
Adrian Chiles and Lee Dixon were going crazy about the reaction of Mueller and yet Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro were chilled. In their belief Mueller had done nothing wrong because play-acting is ‘part of the game.’
“If the rules change, then the behavior of the players will change,” said Vieira.
Waiting for Play-Acting Technology to Catch Up
The rules don’t do enough to prevent this from happening. The deception of players has become so ingenious that it’s almost impossible for the officials to spot.
This is why I was excited to hear that Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is investing a significant portion of his bank balance into technology that can be used to map the physics of play-acting in sport.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is the first time in the history of the game that we have seen goal-line technology used.
I have my fingers crossed that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is the first time we use play-acting technology.
Players who dive should be found out after the event, banned and heavily fined.
And only until this happens will our children stop diving around like their heroes Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
Is This Any Different Than Angle Shooting?
So what does this have to do with poker?
Footballers dive to gain an edge by pushing the boundaries of the game's rules. The professional players in the game, who are paid millions of pounds and are seen as role models throughout the world, blatantly cheat.
And they do so for no other reason than they (a) feel like it’s a part of the game and (b) can get away with it.
Is this any different than angle shooting in poker, which is essentially a method of using an edge to your advantage that pushes the boundaries of our laws?
Players who are caught angle shooting never really receive a serious enough penalty for it to act as a future deterrent.
In fact they are rarely even brought to task, and most of the culprits actually believe it’s just part of the game.
Something Specific or Something Universal?
In the past four years I have worked all over the world covering live tournaments and the two countries that I see angle shooting more than any other are France and Italy.
Is it a coincidence that in the aforementioned debate held between Childs, Dixon, Vieira and Cannavaro that the two people who saw no problems with diving were an Italian and a Frenchman?
There's a view in English football that diving is a European problem and that it was never a part of our game until the Premier League was formed and European players flooded our leagues.
So I wonder if the French and the Italians are just raised to push the laws as far as they can?
Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that the French and Italian footballers think diving and play-acting is part of the game and French and Italian poker players aren’t afraid of the odd angle shot.
Or am I just seeing things that aren’t there?
Is angle shooting equally as prevalent all over the world? And do the English players also dive and play act in front of my mole-like eyes?
What’s your view?