Amidst the clamour and glamour of a fantastic World Cup in Russia, the ugly spectre of play-acting and simulation was always lurking. PDP Assistant Editor, Jon Hoggard, considers the impact of cheating on such a big stage, and uses observational learning theory to highlight the importance of removing it from the game.

Cover Image: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

It’s the 17th minute of the World Cup Final. You’re dribbling at an angle towards the opposition box, with their well-drilled defensive line alert and ready, and your strikers are marked. You sense an opposing midfielder approach to your left – in a split second you have to decide whether to pass, dribble, evade the challenge, or dangle a leg to guarantee contact and hit the deck. You choose the latter, and your nation scores from the resulting free-kick. Goal! World Cup here we come! Cheating!

Cheating is a strong word. Am I calling Antoine Griezmann a cheat for what he did, above? Well, I guess I am and maybe a little harshly – he’s certainly not alone in acting that way. And, as acting goes, at least his was pretty convincing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved this World Cup. The underdog stories, high-scoring games, surprise knockouts, passionate fans, welcoming hosts, and general spirit of the tournament have all been fantastic. The quality of the social media memes has been reflected in the quality of the football! But there has been one lurking shadow – a blot on the landscape of an otherwise gorgeous World Cup: cheating.

There’s that strong word again. Constantly swept aside by pundits and commentators as ‘the dark arts’, being ‘a bit cute’, or ‘streetwise’, some behaviours have been rife throughout the tournament and, despite the promised clampdowns from officialdom, went unpunished and affected outcomes.

But why should we care? After all, some of the best players in the world have made a career out of diving and getting away with ‘the dark arts’. In the end it comes down to values, and the impact ignoring these values has on young players and the future of the game.

Valuing fairness

The main value being trodden on at the World Cup was: fairness. When a player dives, feigns injury, scuffs up the penalty spot behind the ref’s back, wastes time or argues with the ref, they are acting contrary to the laws of the game. It’s as fundamental as that. Law says one thing, players do another – and are not consistently punished for doing so. This is simply not ‘fair’. (For more on values, make sure you read James Vaughan’s article in this edition of the magazine.)


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Jon Hoggard
Jon Hoggard
Jon is the Assistant Editor at Player Development Project.
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