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Marcelo’s reaction is hardly a foreign problem

7 April 2011

The Mirror's John Cross was "appalled" by Marcelo's reaction, rather than Crouch's stupidity (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe)

Cultural differences can cause confusion and misunderstanding in football. For instance, diving is seen as clever in Italy, whilst it is still disapproved of in England. English commentators in Champions League matches will often comment that “we don’t like seeing that,” but many of their foreign peers will not view an incident the same way.

There’s also a misconception that so-called ‘bad habits’ are prominent across the continent, but are absent in England. John Cross typified this belief in his Mirror column headlined “Why I was appalled by Marcelo’s reaction to Peter Crouch’s dismissal in Madrid.”

He recounts Peter Crouch’s red card against Real Madrid, and highlights the reaction of Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo:

Crouch is an experienced, likable and good professional. But his moments of madness in Madrid have cost his club dear.

But what an appalling thing to see Real Madrid’s Marcelo clench his fist with delight and celebrate when Crouch got sent off.

Maybe standards and behaviour are different. But I struggle to believe many players in the Premier League would revel in someone else’s misfortune and foolishness.

Cross’ claim that the Premier League doesn’t feature players with similar habits is horribly outdated, and there are examples to prove it.

Did Edwin van der Sar keep his head down and thank his lucky stars when John Terry slipped whilst taking his penalty in the Champions League final? Hardly; he too clenched his fists and then gestured to the crowd despite completely guessing the wrong way.

Did Ramires and Drogba hide their emotions after Nemanja Vidic was sent off earlier this season at Stamford Bridge? Not at all; the video shows Ramires gives his team mate a handshake and a hug as they come close to completing an important victory.

And what about our British players, men who personify integrity and fair play? Surely they would never “revel in someone else’s misfortune and foolishness,” even after one of the biggest cup final clangers in recent memory? Wrong; Barry Ferguson just couldn’t resist as he gave Laurent Koscielny a not-so-polite slap on the head in the Carling Cup final after the Frenchman’s error allowed Obafemi Martins to score the winner.

Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho clearly spent a considerable amount of time calculating how to deal with Crouch, who had caused problems for most teams in Europe. To see him sent off would have been an enormous lift to Madrid, just as John Terry missing, Nemanja Vidic getting sent off and Laurent Koscielny committing an error would have boosted their respective opponents. To react is surely only natural.

Pundits, ex-pros and some journalists are blind to the reality – the Premier League, like any other league, will have gamesmanship and so-called ‘bad habits’. Whether or not they should be condoned is a matter of personal opinion; whilst it’s not necessarily ‘sporting’ for Marcelo to react as he did, he did it in the heat of the moment – an argument some used to defend Wayne Rooney’s outburst at West Ham.

But to continue to believe that the Premier League is a home of righteousness is plain wrong.

Raphael Honigstein’s Englischer Fussball: A German View of Our Beautiful Game has a chapter titled “Michael must have picked that up in Spain,” taken from a John Motson remark. Motty was disappointed to see Real Madrid player Michael Owen falling over suspiciously easily in the penalty area for England – the same Michael Owen who took went down with minimum contact against Argentina in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Oh Motty.

Do you think Marcelo’s reaction was uncalled for? Are there any other similar examples from Premier League teams? Get involved by posting your comments below.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Often Partisan permalink
    7 April 2011 7:45 pm

    Talking of English cheats, Ashley Young is terrible for diving. For example his dive against Montenegro and some would argue he dived against Wales as well.
    I don’t think he learnt it in Spain.

    • 8 April 2011 6:00 am

      More likely he picked it up in Stevenage.

      I find it difficult to criticise diving though. When the rules of football were first laid out if was very much a game of honesty and integrity – there are stories of goalkeepers refusing to save penalty kicks as they deemed it unfair if a team mate had tripped an opponent!

      But with the advent of commercialism in the sport, football becomes like any other business, where individuals or companies do what they can to earn a leg up on competitors. Especially when the consequences of being caught are so insignificant – a booking will hardly ruin your career. So in this respect, I expect players will dive whilst there is plenty of incentive and little deterrent.

      • 8 April 2011 8:26 am

        I seem to recall an earlier draft of this article where you explicitly defend diving! I probably got my wires crossed, but while I can see your point re the ration between incentive and deterrent encouraging players to cheat, do you not think it’s high time that ratio changed? Cheating is not an inevitable product of professional sports, Americans are routinely agog at what goes on in football

      • 8 April 2011 8:51 am

        You’ve caught me! I wrote it in the first version, but removed it because I didn’t see it as wholly relevant. But yes, I did say I think English players should perhaps dive more, but mainly because of the point I made above.

        I do agree though, FIFA should look to increase the deterrent, though it’s very difficult. I can’t see referees being encouraged to send off players for diving – it’s too drastic and we sometimes see referees getting bookings for diving wrong anyway. Perhaps retrospective action is in order, but that wont happen until FIFA sort out their rules on retrospective action as it is at the moment (eg. Rooney v Wigan).

        I’m no expert at American sports, but it seems as if the open, flowing nature of football allows cheating more than even rugby, tennis or cricket, i.e. there’s more grey areas.

  2. 8 April 2011 8:57 am

    Yeah, good point about the greater potential for cheating in football. American sports are a series of set pieces with more constrained outcomes so it’s easier to identify players ‘acting’ outside their appointed role

  3. Steve M permalink
    8 April 2011 3:12 pm

    I seriously dislike diving. I also totally agree with you roriginal point that it’s absolutley no differnt in the Premier League than the rest of europe and that mirror journo needs a guide dog.

    But it’s definitely here to stay, and i do think your point about the win at all costs (financial incentives/implications of not etc) attitude is more likely the reason it’s come about and won’t go away. I now watch Championship football (as a pompey fan) and it’s far less prevalent there.

    For me though the main reason diving is here to stay is that minimal contact in the penalty area is almost always rewarded with a penalty kick but only if the ‘offended’ player hits the deck. If he stays on his feet no pen. And this has become accepted, players hit the deck under any contact and if like Torres against Chelsea the contact was so minimal and had no bearing on his ability to stay on his feet then many fans will shrug their shoulders and begrudgingly admit the ref got that one right. In fact unless its the most embarrasingly blatant dive in the world the only person to get it in the neck if the dive “succeeds” is the ref, the healthy disrespect of refs by those in football and the media means a player will almost never have to answer to his embarrasing play-acting.

    • 8 April 2011 3:34 pm

      Great point about how referees are the ones who are criticised rather than the players. Can’t see players being asked questions about their actions either – Sky wouldn’t even ask Rooney about the incident at West Ham (though perhaps you can see why they wouldn’t).

  4. Steve M permalink
    8 April 2011 3:14 pm

    I really should read my posts before i click “Post Comment”! Ignoring the typos i am well aware Torres plays FOR Chelsea, and i was trying to refer to the CL match against ManU. Lol

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