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Shhh … We can hear you cheating

10 months ago

We have a choice these days where we can watch matches on the TV with or without crowd noise. I prefer to watch with the noise but maybe the choice is a Marmite thing for others.

What is welcome is that even with the ‘crowd’ switched-on you can hear the players shouting at each other. You can hear them berating or encouraging each other, or screaming for the ball.

Its sounds just like any Sunday League match, except that our own Head Coach doesn’t do much shouting.

You can also hear the odd ‘Aw!’ as someone misses a sitter, which is always entertaining. If you didn’t hear the expletive, the commentator will usually alert you to it by apologising. This just prompts my kids to rewind and turn up the volume so that we can identify the culprit.

The player’s voices add a refreshing new layer of entertainment. Even at a live match you cannot really hear the players interact because of the crowd noise, especially if you are up in row ZZ.

There is a downside though. There used to be a time where when a player cheated, we could only SEE them doing it. Unfortunately, we can now hear them cheating too.

The softest of contact, or often no contact at all, and we are subjected to a shameful noisy display of deceit and chicanery. It’s becoming endemic, and sadly a number of Toon players are at it as well. Now that we can hear the faux shrieks of agony, it’s becoming much easier to identify the offenders.

The gymnastics, multiple rolls and agonised shin-hugging is always accompanied by a blood-curling scream of epic Hammer Horror proportions. It’s the sort of scream that you might let rip if you caught your bell-end in the Magimix while grating some cheddar.

This embarrassing display also involves an extended period of writhing in agony, while pounding the pitch with whichever limb doesn’t have multiple fractures. The replay will often reveal that the shattered body-part that the player is hugging, was not even the one his opponent barely touched.

During the writhing-in-agony phase the most serious fouls also entail you arching your head back, gritting your teeth, screwing your eyes shut, and encouraging the veins in your neck to bulge alarmingly. Think early experiments with the electric chair in the USA and you will get the picture.

If I injured myself to the extent that I screamed out loud, then writhed on the ground in agony shrieking and yelping for several minutes, I’m pretty sure that it would justify an urgent helicopter evacuation. I would also probably be getting fed through a tube up my nose for the next couple of months.

However, footballers are made of stronger stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t even need a dab with the magic sponge. A lift-up from a teammate, a couple of tentative steps, a short experimental sprint, and we have a miraculous recovery! Hard as nails these guys.

Law 12 of the FA Rules deals with cheating but they prefer to call it ‘simulation’. It is an example of Unsporting Behaviour and the rule is phrased like this:

There are different circumstances where a player must (My emphasis) be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player:

• Attempts to deceive the referee eg by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled.

It is to be noted that feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled are only given as two examples; any attempt to deceive the referee is an infringement and should earn a yellow card.

Going down when you weren’t even touched is obviously an attempt to deceive the referee. An Oscar-winning performance after the lightest of contact with an opponent is also an attempt to deceive the referee. We see, and now hear this happening on multiple occasions in every match at the moment; sadly some Toon players are guilty of this too.

If a player exaggerates their fall or their injury, they are attempting to make the foul (If there even was one) look both plausible, and far worse than the reality. They are attempting to earn a free kick or a penalty and have their opponent booked or sent off. They are trying to deceive the referee. They are cheating.

According to the FA rules if a player is guilty of this deception the referee must give them a yellow card. However, the number of yellow cards issued in these circumstances is negligible, and has actually fallen in the past two seasons.

With VAR a player can be found offside by the width of his toenail. I do not suggest that every foul should be examined by VAR, but when VAR does examine a potential foul it needs to look further, and look at the victim’s conduct as well as the alleged aggressor.

Simulation is not ‘Gamesmanship’ or ‘Part of the theatre’. It is cheating, and commentators and pundits should call it that and censure it far more than they do. Just because many players do it doesn’t make it acceptable.

And don’t get me started on the phrase: ‘Winning a penalty’. You don’t win a penalty, you get awarded one for something your opponent did. Winning a penalty suggests that you got one for something that YOU did! If you win a penalty you were probably cheating.

As for our own divers and thespians, you know who you are, and there is no excuse for your behaviour. When we hear your squeals of agony we know what you are up to, and I for one view your conduct with contempt. If some recent games had been refereed properly you would rapidly have been on two yellows, and been deservedly sent off for your theatrics.

Too many players in the Premier League are setting a terrible example to the younger generation of footballers. NUFC players should be better than this. I would prefer that we lost a match but I was proud of our sportsmanship, rather than win a match but be ashamed because we cheated better than the opposition.


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