Following what many still consider a 'soft' penalty decision against Liverpool, Harry Kane again found another excuse to kiss the turf in the oppositions penalty area last night in Turin.
With Spurs trailing 2-0 in the 17th-minute, a light touch on the back from Medhi Benatia sent Kane tumbling to the turf after he’d managed to toe-poke the ball away from the Juventus defender.
The fact he also prodded the ball away from himself and any area of the pitch which could be considered dangerous for the defending team, probably helped sway the referee’s decision in not awarding a penalty.
But was it a dive? Should Kane have been booked or should Tottenham have been awarded a penalty?
Playing for a goal
Following Virgil van Dijk’s accusation that the England striker dived against Liverpool, Kane gave the following response to a Sky Sports reporter:
"[Karius] has dived, he got in the way and I'm a player, I'm not going to jump out of the way because it's football. I definitely felt contact and I went down."
Essentially, this can be interpreted to read that he was looking to draw a foul from the play and was successful in winning the penalty through this mentality.
It can also be interpreted that he knew the challenge was coming but stood firm in his position on the pitch, risking injury to take a hit which would provide his team a scoring opportunity.
With regards to his appeals against Juventus last night, many people will feel that the push on the back from Benatia warranted Kane to go down in the area. But would Kane have fallen this way in any other area of the pitch under similar circumstances?
Letter of the law
The rules clearly state that exaggerated movements are not permitted and should be punished accordingly.
“Any simulating action anywhere on the field, which is intended to deceive the Referee, must be sanctioned as unsporting behaviour. — FIFA, Law 12 Decision 5”
With the ball running away from goal and a defender tight behind Kane, the striker’s options were severely limited.
The motion of Kane’s head strongly suggests that the Spurs man threw himself to the floor knowing that contact had been initiated but ultimately, the referee deemed the challenge to be fair and saw no reason to speak with Kane about the ease with which he fell.
The latter of which could easily be attributed to the referee not being 100% certain of how events unfolded in real-time. This is something he must be clear about in awarding either a penalty or a card and something which is hard to judge in every split-second incident throughout a match.
VAR from clear
VAR is the most recent step taken by the authorities to combat diving and eradicate incorrect penalty decisions. However, by itself, VAR is insufficient to cleanse the game completely in this respect.
The slightest amount of contact can be used to vindicate a player going down, irrespective of whether they were in full control of the ball or not.
This leaves the decision entirely subjective and is the reason why debates surrounding some decisions can often rumble for a week or more without a definite conclusion. Therefore, an additional minute's worth of video replay is unable to add clarity to a point where all parties will be satisfied.
Many of the problems arising through questionable appeals involve players treading a fine line between fouls and simulations.
But while supporters rail against the idea of cheating, the term “to win a penalty” has grown in use over the last few years and is often considered acceptable if the player in question is a member of your own team.
The most obvious solution to wiping this form of cheating from the game is to impose heavy sanctions on players caught breaking the rules.
A player found guilty of cheating should face a much harsher suspension than a regular red-card offence, with a 6 or 10 game ban proving a much greater risk for a player to consider “winning a penalty” from a game in this way.
However, this would not necessarily stop a player acting this way in the last minute of a Champions League or World Cup final.
At the heart of this problem is a simple question. How do you define what is and isn’t a foul?
While referees bear the brunt of fans frustrations, the problem lies much deeper in the game than at the whistle of the men in black.
The rules currently don’t provide a watertight description of what constitutes a 'dive' but that itself is no easy task. To say with absolute certainty that a player has used simulation in their movements will always remain a subjective opinion, perceived differently by different parties in and around the game.
Meanwhile, the more times a player goes unpunished for committing these perceived offences, the more likely they will be to continue pushing the boundaries of the game.
The high stakes of money and glory are always going to lead towards people looking for loopholes in the rules to exploit.
Until a time when this is finally tackled head-on and a firm, decisive step is taken, the arguments will continue to rage and players will feel they have every right to fall down in the opposition’s box.
What do you think the solution to the diving problem is? Let us know by commenting below.