So on Thursday, despite the entire nation seeing him blatantly dive to win a penalty against Arsenal at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney insisted that he is an “honest player” who doesn’t deliberately try to deceive the referees to win penalties. A few days later, Rooney – this time in an England shirt – again tumbled to the ground unnecessarily, appealed to the referee and was awarded a penalty. Rooney certainly isn’t the saint he claims to be, mainly because of his own hypocrisy.
And this is what really rankles with me. While I despise players for diving in football, and I think it’s a dishonest and shameful thing to do, I fully understand why they do it. The gain from diving for a penalty is enormous, and the chances of pulling it off in today’s game are very high. It’s no surprise that players do it and we all know that it goes on. The blame for that lies with those who haven’t been forceful enough in stamping it out, but when Rooney makes such hypocritical claims, he makes himself look stupid.
Because let’s face it, no matter what team you support, some of the players you support will have dived to win a free-kick or a penalty and though you know in your heart that its wrong, you can’t help but be glad that they did it. At one point last season Jo dived to win a penalty for Everton, and this sparked a huge internal struggle within me. One part of me wanted to get on the next flight to England and rip that sacred shirt of the cheating bugger’s back, but when the ball hit the back of the net, I’ll admit I was delighted.
So that’s the thing, when Rooney dived to win a penalty against Arsenal, I was annoyed because he dived and denied Arsenal a deserved win. But I can understand why he did it, he did it purely and simply because he knew that he could get away with it. And that makes him human. It’s only natural that if you can get something great for free then you will. When you find twenty quid on the floor of the pub you should probably hand it in at the bar, rather than cashing it in for a round of drinks. But few people will.
So although I wish that Rooney hadn’t dived to win that penalty against Arsenal, I don’t blame him for doing so. The blame for that lies solely with the game’s governing bodies who have been far, far to slow in bringing in any measures to prevent it. Eduardo’s ban finally sets a precedent for punishing divers, and that needs to be followed up strictly, but such measures could and should have been introduced years ago, and then we would never have even got to this point.
However, when Rooney came out on Thursday and claimed to be an “honest player” he ceased to be just another professional footballer who does what almost everyone else would do in their situation and became a massive hypocrite. We have irrefutable TV evidence that at worst Rooney blatantly dived for that penalty against Arsenal and at best he ‘made the most’ of some very slight contact. Either way, Rooney has purposefully deceived the referee on at least one occasion and so he is categorically not an honest player.
That just a few days later Rooney should repeat the trick while playing for England simply hammers the nail in the coffin. I’m an England fan and I’m chuffed that we beat Slovenia, but I’m perfectly willing to admit that that penalty should never have been awarded. It was your average 50/50 tussle and once Rooney realised he wasn’t going to get on the end of Gerrard’s (lovely) ball, he simply dropped himself to the ground and appealed to the referee.
Again, simply the act of making the most of the contact in the box would have been understandable and even, in terms of football in its present state, almost acceptable (to some at least) had he not, just days before, claimed that he is an honest player. Now Wayne Rooney is pretty well known for having little but eyes between his ears, but surely even he knows the meaning of the word “honest”, and he can’t seriously believe that we could accept his claims in the face of such blatant evidence to the contrary.
The most amusing part of this whole thing though, is that Rooney also said that “If the referee gives a penalty there is nothing you can do.” This was in reference to the penalty he won in the match against Arsenal, and in many ways is a clear confession of guilt. It’s almost like he’s saying: ‘Well no, it wasn’t a penalty at all, but I couldn’t do anything about it because the referee had awarded it’. Even if you don’t want to draw a guilty verdict from that statement though, I’ve spotted a couple of problems.
The first is that in reality, Rooney could probably very easily have changed the referees decision. If he had gotten up, turned around to Mike Dean and said “No, actually, I just fell over, it’s not a penalty” then Dean would have had very little choice but to award Arsenal the goal kick, and suffer the slight embarrassment of having been deceived by Rooney but feel proud and satisfied that justice had been done, which is of course what he is there to achieve.
The second problem with that claim is that it implies that the referee gave the penalty, almost against Rooney’s own will, or at least, with no coercion from himself. Unfortunately, in the amazing age of technology that we live in, I can click onto countless websites which will show me replays of the incident and I can clearly see that as Rooney hits the deck he turns and makes a blatant appeal to the referee for the penalty to be given.
This pretty much tells us that Rooney was talking completely out of his arse when he claimed that there is “nothing you can do” when the referee gives a penalty in your favour that perhaps should not have been given. Still, we shouldn’t be too surprised that Rooney is incapable of giving an honest opinion when we’ve seen from his on-pitch antics that despite his assertive claims to the contrary, Rooney is a dishonest player. No matter what he says, he will do what it takes to win, even if that means breaking the rules of the game.
But that would be, to an extent, acceptable if he didn’t claim to be such a saint. After all, we all love a bad boy every now and then, and as a passionate fan its great to see that the players on the pitch want to win as much as you do, and they they have the determination to do what it takes to get the points. Even if they do break the rules as a result we can at least respect that the motivation for the act was good, even if the act itself was not.
But in claiming to be “honest” Rooney paints a portrait of himself as a ‘good guy’. And he’s not. That’s OK, not everyone is and as I’ve just said, we can still admire players who break the rules. But in attempting to deny that side of his game, Rooney in fact paints a picture of himself as a dishonest and conniving person. In trying to establish an image of himself as a (very ugly) angel, he’s attempting to earn himself some favour with the referees. If they are taken in by his claims, then he can dive more and be assured that they will assume contact because he is an “honest player”.
What I’m saying here then, is that through this whole diving affair which was sparked by Eduardo’s ban, Rooney has made himself look like a twat. We all know, and to an extent accept, that diving takes place in the game and though we resent it, we understand why players do it. Rooney has tried to align himself with that attitude by claiming his own innocence, but such an attempt to earn favour with the fans has backfired because it is so blatantly obvious that he’s telling fibs, attempting to deceive us as well as the referees.
It suggests that he thinks we’re stupid enough to swallow his bullshit, and that is just going to piss people off and make them hate him more than they already did. Ultimately then, I think that if UEFA are serious about getting a handle on diving in the game, they could do a lot worse than to make an example of Rooney. They’ve set the precedent with Eduardo’s punishment and so given that Rooney has committed the same offence twice in a week as well as publicly denying doing so, he should be hit with a heavier punishment.
What’s more, Sir Alex Ferguson would have to sit down and accept it because he has come out in support of the Eduardo verdict, and so couldn’t complain if Rooney was slapped with a similar ban. And after all the attention that Rooney himself has brought to the whole affair, he could almost be made a unwilling martyr for the campaign against diving. I certainly wouldn’t mind Rooney being strung up for it even if he did miss England games, because something needs to be done about it and to be fair, if anyone is deserving of being made an example of, after his claims this week, it’s Rooney.
Have your say:
What do you think of the whole diving affair? Was Eduardo’s punishment fair? Who else should be punished? Is Rooney guilty of ‘simulation’? Leave a comment with your opinion below…