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Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 00:00

Compiled by PHILIP REID

Danger of Gaelic games simulating soccer

Diving. Simulation. Cheating even? Call it what you will, it amounts to the same thing.

As the world and its mother knows, diving is especially prevalent in soccer – with Fifa acknowledging its menace by attempting to crack down on the deception – but, as Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello has pointed out in his annual report released to clubs in midweek, “feigning injury” is an issue that has also crept into Gaelic football.

Who ever would have thought we’d see that day? Costello doesn’t mention names but, in referring to the “blight of feigning injury,” the Dublin chief claims, “the year almost gone was as bad as any in recent years.”

He continues: “Some teams, and one in particular, have become very adept at it. They are guilty of feigning injury in a bid to dupe the referee and other match officials into both (a) winning a free and presumably (b) getting an opponent booked or sent off directly. In teams who adopt this premeditated strategy, any sort of contact with one of their players results in that player collapsing to the deck holding the face as if dangerously struck. Such acts are cowardly and unsporting and measures should be taken to eradicate them from our games.”

The problem on Gaelic football fields is nowhere near as bad as on soccer pitches, though. The common thread, in whatever sport, is that the rewards for diving/simulation/deception are greater than the punishment for being branded a diver. Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, for one, might be a great player with strength and skill in his armoury but the fact he has been received four yellow cards for apparently seeking to pull the wool over referees’ eyes would indicate that his acting ability doesn’t quite match his footballing prowess.

Deception works

In this day and age where television cameras are two a penny at big matches, the likelihood is that players will get caught out, just as happened to Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla for his dive with Steven Reid in the English Premier League last week. The post-match reactions and subsequent analysis may have shown him up but the player could shrug his shoulders and take the brickbats in the knowledge that he had got away with the deception when it mattered. He won a penalty, it was scored and his team won.

An interesting study undertaken in Australia last year and published in the science journal PLOS One, sought to investigate human deception using animal signalling theory. It argued, “A ‘dive’ (deceptive signal) is synonymous with animal mimicry, and occurs when a player (signaller) intentionally mimics the behaviour of an illegal tackle-induced fall (reliable cue) and the referee (receiver) responds as if it were a tackle-induced fall by rewarding the player with a free kick (signaller benefit).”

In the study, which focused on matches in six high-profile leagues in Europe, it found that deceit – in the form of diving – decreased as the potential rewards declined. It found that the potential benefit a player can gain from a dive is greatest when the score is level (seeking a goal-scoring opportunity to win the match), is less when losing (a goal-scoring opportunity to draw the game) and at its lowest when winning (a goal-scoring opportunity to maintain lead).

The Jones solution

Interestingly, it also found that the ability of referees to detect deception varied with spatial proximity and culture. . . . but it didn’t give any solutions to a problem which is especially common in professional soccer where it would seem to be fair game to be dishonest.

Perhaps the solution offered by former footballer turned actor Vinnie Jones is the best. In recalling an incident during his time at Wimbledon, Jones told the story of how one of his team-mates went down with a dive in the area. “I walked over, picked him up by his hair on the back of his neck and told him, ‘we don’t do that here, son. Got it?’ . . . . he never did it again.”

Could the answer be to get Jones to don a referee jersey and brandish his line of justice to those perpetual divers? You’d figure Messrs Bale, Suarez and Cazorla would get the message pretty quickly.

As for a tough, no-nonsense GAA player to front a similar campaign against feigning injury? It would have to be Ryan McMenamin.

Seriously, though, Costello’s point should be taken on board before the scourge of diving or feigning injury becomes any more widespread. Prevention is better than the cure.

Low-key year for France as domestic awards go to a couple of bolters

The respected French newspaper L’Equipe didn’t raise too many eyebrows in opting for the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt (right) as its Sportsman of the Year after his feat in winning three gold medals – in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay – at the 2012 London Olympics.

Bolt would probably be an automatic winner of any global vote for his exploits this year. Wimbledon champion Serena Williams was acknowledged as the year’s top sportswoman by the newspaper.

If the two global gongs were relatively straightforward, the awards for the leading French sportspeople of 2012 came a little from left-field.

Teddy Riner, who won a gold medal in judo, and swimmer Camille Muffat took the respective French awards for men and women. Not a cyclist or a footballer in sight.

European Tour reacts on the double

The European Tour has shown in the past that it has its eye very much on the ball when it comes to facilitating sports fans here.

When the Ryder Cup was staged at The K Club in 2006, it liaised with the GAA so that it wouldn’t clash with the All-Ireland football final. When the Irish Open was staged at Carton House the same year, the tournament was held on the weekend of Munster’s breakthrough Heineken Cup final win over Biarritz and the tour facilitated rugby fans at the tournament by screening the match live on a giant screen.

And for next year’s staging of the Irish Open at Carton House, the tour has arranged for an early finish to Saturday’s third round so that sports fans can go on from the golf to take in the Irish Derby at the Curragh which is an evening meeting on June 29th.

What’s more, an “Irish Double” ticket – providing entry to both the golf and horse racing – has been included in the advance ticket marketing priced at €50. Sounds like a sure-fire winner!

Pacquiao should realise money is not talking sense

Where now for Manny Pacquiao, who has been holding up professional boxing in recent years but who was knocked out by his long-time rival Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas last weekend with a punch that should signal the end of the line for the iconic Filipino boxer.

Pacquiao’s wife has asked him to stop boxing but, as ever in professional boxing, the lure of greenbacks is often an over-riding consideration. Pacman’s handlers would seem to suggest that doors remain open on possible fights in the future.

The talk has started. Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, has stated that a possible fifth match-up with Marquez is a possibility and there is also talk that the long-touted bout with Floyd Mayweather jnr could be resurrected. His trainer Freddie Roach said he expects him to continue.

The reality is Pacquiao won’t be back in the ring any time soon. The 34-year-old is on a mandatory 90-day suspension and it would seem his best days are behind him. Perhaps he would do well to listen to his wife rather than his handlers. Or listen to Barry McGuigan. After the fight, he tweeted: “I’m gutted for Manny P, devastating knockout, don’t think he’ll fight again. Massive statement by Marquez, hard to believe he’s 39 years old.”

Numbers are not adding up for F1

Is Formula 1 racing at something of a crossroads? The loss of Team HRT – which has gone into liquidation – after three years in the sport means just 11 teams will compete in next year’s championship.

Although Sebastian Vettel has followed in the tyre tracks of his compatriot Michael Schumacher and looks destined to become one of the greats of F1, the championship – with 19 races confirmed for 2013 – is less likely to attract new manufacturers. Indeed, Caterham and Marussia, who joined in 2010, have each failed to score any points in a sport dominated nowadays by Red Bull.

With HRT’s exit due to financial pressures and the failure to introduce a budget cap, the worry for the sport is that other teams could fold and that opens up the possibility of a clause that would allow teams to run three cars. That could be activated if there were fewer than 10 teams.

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