Watching last night’s Champions League play-offs proved to be a disheartening experience for one particular incident I witnessed. It was in the game between an impressive young Arsenal side and that of Celtic. The game loaded in Arsenal’s favour following their 2-0 away win, then tilted completely to Arsenal’s favour through a piece of prime play-acting…or for want of a better term, ‘cheating’. Eduardo, the unfortunate player who had his leg shattered in a sickening tackle, contrived to win the Gunners a penalty that wasn’t. This kind of thing happens all the time in top flight football you might argue. And of course you would be right. However that doesn’t excuse the practice. In Eduardo’s case it took the con to new levels and whilst arguing that it was the referee who should have picked it up and it was the ref who gave the penalty, that is to miss the point.
The only way this practice can be stamped out is for managers to come out and condemn not just the practice (as most do) but to shame their own players who engage in it. Arsenal manager Wenger’s response didn’t go far enough in this regard. be sure that at some point in the long season ahead his side will be the victim of such unfair practice and when that occurs, best not cry or moan Mr. Wenger, as you are so apt to do.
Such play-acting and conning the officials has no place in football. Post match citing might be one answer but it has gone unchecked for too long and discredits the Beautiful Game. As Rugby Union has found out, cheating cannot be tolerated and what makes what Eduardo did any different from the infamous blood capsules episode in recent rugby history?