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   June 20, 2002 | 1830 IST


Umit Davala
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Act Now! Treat those Scratches

FIFA fails to curb simulation

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A series of shock results, fantastic home support and entertaining, hooligan-free football have made this year's World Cup something FIFA can be proud of, but when it comes to their clampdown on simulation, the world governing body has failed miserably.

FIFA officials claimed that diving and feigning injury were a "stain on the game" and insisted the guilty would be punished.

But the words have not been followed up by deeds and while there have been a handful of yellows for diving, there have been at least as many penalties wrongly awarded after a referee has been tricked.

As for exaggerating injury, it seems as bad as ever and the forced removal on a stretcher of those who then make miraculous recoveries has led only to unnecessarily wasted time.

"The refereeing has been the only negative aspect of this World Cup," FIFA president Sepp Blatter told Thursday's edition of the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

However, Referees committee spokesman Edgardo Codesal Mendez said on Thursday that FIFA feels the clampdown has had a major effect on cutting down the number of people diving. "We are progressing in that area," he said.

American referee Brian Hall said he considered there was a significant reduction in diving in this tournament compared to 1998, while Germany's Markus Merk said he and his fellow officials have taken a "very tough line".

But the words have a terribly hollow ring after FIFA's feeble response to the worst simulation of all -- by Brazil's Rivaldo -- which led to them immediately forfeiting the moral high ground.

The former World Player of the Year, famed for being able to instantly control a ball fired at any part of his body, dropped to the ground in apparent agony after Turkey's Hakan Unsal poked a ball against his legs as he prepared to take a corner.

The whole world saw it hit Rivaldo's legs yet the Brazilian clutched his face as if he had been punched by Mike Tyson.

Unsal was sent off, Turkey lost the game 2-1 and, after days of prevarication, FIFA issued Rivaldo with a paltry $6,400 fine that was in any case paid by the country's federation.


The laughable punishment, which many suspect would have been somewhat more meaningful if the offender had been an "unknown" from China, Ecuador or Saudi Arabia, sent an immediate message to every competing player that FIFA's clampdown was so much hot air, and the cheats again took centre stage.

South Africa earned a 2-2 draw with Paraguay courtesy of a dubious late penalty awarded against the South Americans' goalkeeper Ricardo Tavarelli for laying on the floor in front of the onrushing Sibusiso Zuma.

"It was part my head, part my legs," said Zuma afterwards. It didn't quite have the impact of "a little bit the hand of Diego, a little bit the hand of God" but it was from the same stable as Maradona's famous explanation of his handballed goal against England in 1986.

Senegal's 3-3 draw with Uruguay featured two penalties given where no contact was made. Senegal struck first as El Hadji Diouf flew over keeper Fabian Carini, but the South Americans gained revenge with the most spectacular dive of the tournament to date.

Richard Morales advanced into the box with the ball at his feet and although neither of the two defenders running with him even attempted a tackle, he tucked both legs up behind him and somehow deceived the referee into pointing to the spot.

Germany's Miroslav Klose may be leading the tournament scoring charts with five goals but he would have got a six for artistic impression if any of his dives had been into water instead of on to grass.

Furious Ireland defender Gary Breen told Klose exactly what he thought of his tactics after the teams' 1-1 first round draw.


Many more dives, none quite as blatant as Morales's, have won penalties and decided games while others are open to argument.

Michael Owen will say he did not dive against Argentina but he played the ball sideways and moved across defender Mauricio Pochettino in such a way that the only result could be contact.

Referees now seem to be in a position where they feel they either have to award a penalty or a yellow card for the dive, when in many instances it should be neither.

Italy's Francesco Totti was sent off after being given a second yellow for diving against South Korea although the defender got the ball and also crashed into the Italian who fell to the ground.

Totti's legs may have buckled easily but he almost certainly felt he had been brought down. His mistake was to appeal, making the referee see intent, and the whole incident shows what a terribly difficult area it is to police.

"Totti's sending off against Korea was neither a penalty nor a dive. A referee with a feeling (for the game) would not have shown him the card, bearing in mind the same player had already been booked," FIFA's Blatter told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

But as long as players try to con referees, even to the extent of perfecting their technique in training, they will continue to sometimes get away with it -- and some genuine victims will continue to get booked.

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