It’s time to throw book at the cheats
BUNGLING refs have hogged the headlines in recent weeks, but with cheats like Fernando Forestieri trying to con them every five minutes, what do you expect? Let’s not mince words. When the Watford striker collapsed under a non-existent punch from Wolves’ Bakary Sako last weekend, he wasn’t ‘simulating’ or ‘play-acting’. He was cheating. His sole aim was to get a fellow professional sent off.
Given that Sako didn’t even raise his arms, it is no surprise that his red card was rescinded on appeal. Anything less would have been a disgrace.
But that shouldn’t be the end of the matter. Having cleared Sako, the FA must, by definition, agree that Forestieri took a dive. So why is he being allowed to get off scot free?
Had Sako’s dismissal stood, the Malian would now be facing a threegame ban for violent conduct. Forestieri knew that and, having achieved his goal of reducing Wolves’ numbers, should have had the balls to exonerate Sako after the match.
Call it naive, but if Jose Mourinho can leap to the defence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, surely it wasn’t beyond Forestieri to say ‘Sorry, I made a rash decision, he never touched me’.
But he didn’t. He was happy to see Sako hit with a suspension. So not only is Forestieri a cheat, he’s a dishonourable cheat.
Surely, then, the most fitting course of action would be to transfer Sako’s three-game ban to Forestieri?
The FA wouldn’t need to do anything radical like invent new rules to retrospectively punish divers. The legislation exists. Just charge Forestieri with bringing the game into disrepute, something his histrionics undoubtedly did.
There are many aspects of gamesmanship that, while infuriating, will always be impossible to punish.
Pain is subjective, and a player could easily argue that, to him, a kick in the shin is tantamount to childbirth.
Sometimes, however, there is no debate. Sometimes a player cheats so blatantly that all doubt is removed.
Remember Rivaldo’s comedy tumble at the 2002 World Cup? Frustrated by the Brazilian’s time-wasting, Turkey’s Hakan Unsal booted the ball at Rivaldo. Though it clearly struck him on the thigh, Rivaldo went down like he’d been tasered, somehow fooling the Korean ref into sending Unsal off.
Like Forestieri, Rivaldo knew exactly what he was doing. And like Forestieri, replays conclusively proved that he cheated. In such cases, there is nothing to prevent retrospective punishment.
This is not just about an eye for eye. It is about wiping the problem out at source. Thirteen years on from Rivaldo’s antics, there remains nothing to discourage Forestieri – or anybody else – from trying it on and hitting the deck.
If the ref buys it, job done. If he doesn’t, it’s a stern talking to at best and a yellow card at worst. That is no deterrent whatsoever. If the authorities really want to help referees, throwing the book at cheats like Forestieri would be a very simple and very effective place to start.