Didier Drogba, Emmannuel Eboue, and Didier Zokora, have a few things in common. They are Cote D'Ivoirian, fantastic players for club and country, and last but not the least, share a penchant for diving.
For every Drogba goal, and he has been spectacular this season- remember this beauty, he undoes all the good with his extreme cynicality. Yesterday, he took a tumble after some mild short tugging by Andre Bikey, the Reading defender and had him sent off. Last week, Zokora went down like pole axed steer after Paolo Mendes, the Portsmouth midfielder was no way near tackling him. It led to a penalty converted by Jermaine Defoe. The Spurs went onto win the game, 2-1. In the last Champions League final, Eboue went down in another fine piece of acting and Arsenal pulled a goal back from the resulting penalty, ultimately losing to Barca 2-1.
Are Cote D'Ivoirians players cheaters when it comes to football? No. I am drawing attention to the fact, that diving is a learned behaviour, that many players resort to because it pays dividends. A player who gets away with diving and is successful in getting the foul he wants, will resort to it time and time again. Football is not played in isolation. Didier Drogba is an icon in his country, the captain of the team enjoying remarkable success in qualifying for their first World Cup 2006, instilling a sense of pride in Cote D'Ivoire, a country torn in strife and civil war, united now by their football team. Along with this well deserved pride comes the belief in what got them this far- skill, hard work, team spirit, and yes, a bit of diving. It becomes undistinguishable from all the other aspects of the game. Zokora's glee was not so much that he was instrumental in getting the Spurs ahead but also the fact that he had sold the referee a dummy.
So, the best way to deal with drawing attention to how diving kills the game without singling out a group of players, starts from the coach, who needs to be uniformly critical of your own players, when they indulge in it. That is why Martin Jol's wink and nod to Didier Zokora's dive saying " I guess he was a bit off balance " was the wrong one. Moral relativism, by claiming that others are doing it too, does no good in solving this pernicious problem. The Cote D'Ivoirians are suddenly in the limelight with their success in club and country, and it is but natural that parts of their game are fodder for discussion.