The words “Chelsea” and “cheating” have been seen together so often recently that anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the words belong together. Arjen Robben’s dive at Stamford Bridge to get Pepe Reina sent off was annoying but not unexpected, and that wasn’t the end to Chelsea’s ways. That incident all came from a handball missed or ignored by the officials, and Didier Drogba handled the ball to score against Manchester City last weekend. Drogba was asked after the game if he would dive and he admitted he would, only to try in vain to retract his comments later. With the World Cup in Germany only months away, Chelsea’s misdemeanours may seem minor by the summer.
In football played in some countries away from England it’s not unusual to see a player rolling around six or seven times to make sure his injury looks bad. It’s not unusual for the players to be skilful at making the slightest of contact look like a career-ending tackle. It’s not unusual to see players dive. The reason it happens in other countries is because the referees and their bosses allow it to happen. Not all players do it though, and with more and more cameras allowing more and more television replays those that do cheat are caught – even if it’s only after the game.
In England there’s no sympathy for a player who rolls around on the floor after being tackled. The attitude is that if you can roll around you can’t be that badly hurt, which is right. The problem comes from the perception that only the foreign players do this. Look at Chelsea again and you’ll see a side that has English players who are perfectly happy to make the most of a challenge. They aren’t the only ones though, and Liverpool’s English captain will not be fooled into joining the bandwagon that says foreigners are ruining the game. It’s cheaters that are ruining the game, regardless of nationality.
Steven Gerrard reveals that when players who are new to the club have arrived thinking it’s OK to “simulate” they’ve soon been put straight, if not by him then by the manager. Cheating is wrong he says: “It annoys me. I don’t think there is anything worse than seeing not just a foreign player but any player who has received a knock lying down on the floor to get an opponent booked – or diving when no one’s been anywhere near him. If I saw a team-mate doing it I would definitely have a word. It’s happened here at Liverpool a couple of times, where players have gone down too easily, and the manager has said: ‘Get up, get on with it, don’t be doing that. It’s wrong’. I think managers and captains, leaders and experienced players have a responsibility to grab people after a training session or a game and say ‘None of that. That doesn’t happen here’.”
One example of this with Liverpool was when Jan Kromkamp made his Liverpool debut against Luton in the FA Cup. Kromkamp’s theatrics impressed nobody, and he won’t be doing that again.
Gerrard is looking forward to what will be his first World Cup this summer, as long as injury doesn’t come along and take his chance away. Some say that his England performances aren’t as good as his Liverpool performances, but he says that’s because he’s played out of position. The role he plays for Liverpool is to get forward, with Momo Sissoko, Xabi Alonso or Dietmar Hamman sitting behind him if he’s playing centrally. For England he has to take on the deeper role because Frank Lampard is only capable of playing in one position: “I feel I have to alter my game when I join up with England because I’m not playing in the position I play for Liverpool. I feel that is maybe why I haven’t set the world alight playing for England. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say I should play before Frank Lampard, he’s been absolutely tremendous over the past few years and credit to him – he deserves to play in that position. But I’m confident enough in my own ability to know that if I got two or three games in that role I could find the consistency I show for my club.”