This issue has been evident to me for some time now. I remember watching the World Cup 4 years ago in June when the United States played Italy. At the time, I was living in North Beach, the “Little Italy” neighborhood of San Francisco. The street blocks were full of people and adrenaline was running high for this much anticipated match-up. Watching the actual game, I noticed that the overly dramatic dives and the writhing on the ground in pain took up more time and attention than the actual game.
I’m not going to say that the US is not guilty of this on occasion, but it largely comes from our international (and mostly European and South American) counterparts. I noticed it even more in this year’s World Cup (as I’ve been trying to watch every game despite the unforgiving time difference between South Africa and California). Watching the Brazil/Ivory Coast game this afternoon, it really jogged my memory from 4 years ago when I found this behavior just as annoying. I remember watching France, Italy, Spain, four years ago, pulling the same stunts. And now, watching Brazil first, faking a dive, then Ivory Coast’s Keita, acting, almost embarrassingly that he’s been hit in the face by Brazil’s Kaka, when it is very evident that the hit was barely a hit and it was to the chest. Kaka was ejected, receiving a red card, and Brazil goes on to win the game. Side note: Ivory Coast becomes the first African nation to score a goal against Brazil in the World Cup.
I can understand a little bit of acting. You don’t want to be too tough because the game doesn’t call for (American) football like hits or major bodily contact. You want to call attention to the fact that even though you aren’t dying or need to be carried out on a stretcher, the other guy acted too aggressively for this game. This has been carried on to the point now that I feel that I roll my eyes an average of 10 times per game just because of these acts of melodrama. I find myself angry, distracted, annoyed and embarrassed for the players and the integrity of the game. These are remarkable athletes. Soccer players need to be in the best physical condition, arguably, of any sport athlete. Their quickness, agility, strength, endurance and perseverance SHOULD make soccer players tough on the field. So why are they such babies?
I blame it a little on what I like to call the “international flair” factor. People like to perform, some more than others. This chemical is on high production when athletes are playing on the main stage, like a performer. Europeans and South Americans are best known for their flair, and honestly, I can’t disagree with the stereotype (even though it occasionally gets extended to Africa, Asia and yes, even the US of A).
I also blame it on the non-exposure to contact sports. Rugby (and hockey) excluded, I don’t see very many variations of high impact contact sporting in other countries. Here in the US, people are used to seeing sacks and hits that make you wince. Turn on the TV on Sunday morning and you’ll see gruesome acts that are, frankly, legitimate plays. Tendons are ripped, shoulders pushed out of the sockets, mouth bleeding, teeth knocked out, skin scraped off of knees, legs and arms, hits to the head, hits below the belt. We’ve seen it all, and on the soccer field, we’ve seen worse. I think this contributes to my intolerance of such behavior. I’m screaming at the TV, “Come on, get up, I could have taken that hit and still gotten up by now”. It also contributes to others overly tolerant attitude towards this behavior.
All in all, we watch soccer games to watch the game, not to watch the side-show. So these guys need to remember that they are soccer players on the field. If they want to be drama queens, well that can wait for minute 91.