Most modern footballers are liars. And they do it every game, probably without even realising.
We’ve all seen a player challenging for the ball and clearly getting the final contact before it goes over the dead ball line. Nine times out of ten, said player will raise his hand, often leaping to his feet to claim that it’s his side throw-in, or corner, or goal-kick. Against Blackburn on Sunday, Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher claimed possession of the ball after kicking the ball over the touchline when no opposition player was within five yards.
This will happen in every single game, without fail. It never goes mentioned by pundits or commentators, nor is any disciplinary action ever taken. It’s not quite as bad as diving to win a free-kick or penalty, but it’s still attempting to deceive the officials.
Players also lie when they concede free-kicks, usually after particularly rough challenges when they’ve made no contact whatsoever with the football, yet will look with pleading eyes at the referee and make the shape of the ball with their hands, as if claiming to have made a fair tackle. Sometimes, the player will make some small amount of contact with the ball, but their momentum – often caused by recklessly sliding at high speed across the turf – will see their studs crunch into a rival’s leg. John Terry claimed to have played the ball in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, but he was ignoring the fact that James Milner could consider himself fortunate not to come away with a broken leg, such was the force of Terry’s challenge. Again, the hands came out. Terry then exacerbated his crime by appealing against the award of a yellow card; surely the very least he could have expected.
Why do players do this? And more importantly, why are they not taken to task for it? At the very least, our country’s commentators should be making these observations, and perhaps shaming players into behaving differently. The longer they get away with the small things, the more they’ll feel they can get away with the bigger things.