September 12, 2012, 12:46 pm
My first attempt at a blog which doesn't involve anything to do with my last holiday and
the food that i ate!
I was watching Bulgaria vs Armenia World Cup qualifying football match recently.
Since moving from England to Bulgaria I've been occasionally watching the premiere
league here in BG and also Bulgaria's national team games.
I'm glad that England haven't drawn Bulgaria in the qualifying group again.
I was walking on egg shells after England beat them 4-1 and 3-0 in the last European
Championship qualifying campaign. (The wife is Bulgarian)
Anyway, hopes were high for Bulgaria after playing Italy recently and being unlucky
not to win. In fact Martin Atkinson the English referee pretty much cost them a famous
win when he bottled a couple of big penalty decisions. (Thanks Mr. Atkinson for making
my Saturday evening a particularly frosty one.)
Back to the Armenia game. Armenia were attacking and their attacker drove
into Bulgarias penalty area, then proceeded to throw himself to the ground in a bid to
win a penalty with no defender within 2 yards of him. For once the referee saw this
and booked the diving Armenian player. (The ref wasn't English, fortunately
for the Bulgarian team and me).
This got me thinking about how, in this day and age, a player could blatantly cheat
to attempt to gain a big advantage with very little consequence.
If the ref gets it wrong Armenia get a penalty and they have, I'd assume, about a 90%
chance of scoring a goal from the ensuing penalty kick.
As most poker players know, a big aspect of the game we play is risk versus reward related.
And I realised that this same concept applied here.
Obviously in poker our risk is the amount we bet or call and the reward is hopefully the pot.
In this instance the risk for the attacker was getting a yellow card. A small
fine that won't hurt him too much. There's no damage done for the team unless he
gets another yellow card and gets sent off. So, the risk is very small. But the potential
gain in conning the referee was huge. A penalty and a chance to go 1-0 up
from the penalty spot and potentially win the game from there.
In the 70's and 80's in football the professional foul was rife. If an attacker was running clean
through on goal with a great chance to score, sometimes the only thing a defender could
do to stop this high percentage goal scoring chance would be to commit a professional
foul and take the centre forward down before he got to the penalty box.
This used to result in just a yellow card. So, the same concept applied here.
His risk was just receiving a yellow card but the reward was stopping a goal scoring opportunity.
If the team were winning 1-0 with 1 minute left commiting this offence was a no brainer to a
defender. So, to clamp down on this, they changed the rules.
Now, in this same circumstance the defender receives a straight red card and is sent off.
Even by changing this risk so that the punishment is more severe a defender
whose team is winning 1-0 with a minute to go will still take the red card and the 2 game
ban and fine that comes with the red card. Which shows you how askew the risk/reward
ratio was in the first place.
Back to the diving that goes on. For some reason FIFA do not seem to want to
take any action on this ugly part of the game which happens worldwide and ruins many games.
Unless it's a player who does it for your team and gets away with it. Then for that set of
fans it's fine and just a part of the game. The same set of fans will be screaming
blue murder the following week when they get robbed of a big win by an opposing forward
cheating in this exact same way. Is it cheating though? Or just taking advantage of a very poor rule.
Until FIFA clamp down and start awarding straight red cards for a dive then this
trend will continue. I guess even then there will still be some forwards falling over
blades of grass in the oppositions penalty area attempting to win that penalty as
their team desperately attempts to score that winning goal in the final minutes of a match.