The hot topic today is diving ('simulation') in football. Following Dutch star Arjen Robben's confession that he "took a dive" (ie. fell over on purpose) during the Netherlands' Last 16 game against Mexico yesterday, discussions have raged about whether players should be punished retrospectively for these actions with a suspension from playing the next match.
I don't condone diving (not that it would matter if I did); it is, quite simply, a form of cheating - of gaining an unfair advantage - and should be punished with a straight Red Card. However, some of the comments about Robben - both from the general public and professional pundits - strike me as ludicrous.
A bad tackle is a bad tackle - the reaction of the player on the receiving end shouldn't come into that. If a defender goes sliding in with a dangerous, reckless challenge, what does it matter whether the player with the ball tries hard to stay on his feet or collapses in a instant like he's just been stabbed in the back of the leg? The defender's play was still dangerous, and still deserves to be punished - by the awarding a free-kick or a penalty.
Even more importantly, a players 'reputation' shouldn't come into things either. Each appeal for a penalty or a free-kick should be judged on its own merit, not through the prism of 'past form'. Whether Arjen Robben did or didn't dive (or 'exaggerate') when the Dutch were awarded the penalty which won them the game, there was more than one occasion earlier in the game when Robben quite clearly should have been given a penalty and wasn't, because of his reputation as a diver - that is just as great a miscarriage of justice as a penalty being spuriously awarded following a dive.