Diving is a scourge on the game of football. Very few fans will argue with that. So too is faking any injury or contact with another player with the sole aim of getting that player sent off or booked. Some players, and some coaches will claim it is all part of the game, it is stretching the rules and that is what every player does. They stretch the rules to see how much they can get away with in order to gain an advantage.
That however does not make it right.
Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe was understandably upset that his team did not receive a couple of free-kicks at the weekend in their match against table-topping Western Sydney Wanderers. He believed that had the two players whose runs to goal were impeded fallen over they would have received a free kick. “I’m not going to ask my guys to dive over if it’s a legitimate free kick, but if those things aren’t given then maybe next time around you think if you have to do that. That’s not acceptable in my mind’s eye anyway.” He is quoted as saying.
However there has to be some latitude here. The referee Jarred Gillett allowed play to continue after the pacy, live-wire Jamal Reiners pulled away from the sluggish Alberto Aguilar. The Wanderers player blatantly stretched out his arm and tried to pull the player back and slow his run towards goal. He succeeded and a covering defender blocked Reiners shot.
The second time Chris Harold had turned the lumbering Nikolai Topor-Stanley and looked to be clear when Topor Stanley’s arm across his body threw him off his stride and pushed him wide. Harold also did however manage to get a shot away.
Had the Perth Glory players scored on both of these occasions everyone would be praising Gillett for playing an excellent advantage. As they did not he is now being castigated for not awarding free kick. Yet in truth the fans want to see the game flow, and credit should go to Harold and Reiners for not going to ground and backing themselves to score.
The only area where one feels that Gillett did err was in not coming back after the play had come to an end and booked Aguilar for a clear and deliberate foul. Topor-Stanley, who knew he had been left for dead, was not quite as blatant although his foul was equally as deliberate, and he too could easily also have received a yellow card, yet to be fair challenges such as this are rarely booked.
Lowe has a point that he does not want his players to dive, but equally I am sure he would like to see referees play advantage whenever possible. He would however definitely want to see offending opposition players booked for trying to impede his players in attack, and which coach wouldn’t; they may feel differently if it was their player defending.
Some in the crowd would say that the reason his players did not go to ground was because they are young and naive, but most fans would rather see that attitude than the knock-the-ball=past-a-player-and-fall-over-style of the likes of Sidnei and del Piero, to name just two.
Perth Glory had a very young side on the park at the weekend and they managed to draw 2-2 against the top team in the competition at the moment. Not only that, they led twice in the match. Despite the result the performance was pleasing because it saw the most Western Australian’s on the park since David Mitchell was coach. There were five in the starting eleven, Alex Grant, Mitch Oxborrow, Josh Risdon, Joseph Knowles and Aryn Williams. Then Chris Harold who was born in Perth came on at half time along with Jamal Reiners who replaced Knowles. They were followed by Captain Richard Garcia also a Western Australian, who replaced Oxborrow.
Now many of these players are far from the finished article, but they all showed that they could match it with the current best in the A-League. None looked out of his depth, in fact at times they looked more composed than some of the more experienced players around them.
So despite not getting the free kicks he would have liked Kenny Lowe should have plenty to smile about over Christmas. Two wins and a draw in the one week, his team has only lost once at home in six games and they sit on the brink of the top six. Add to that the young talent waiting to be given a chance and prove themselves and the way they performed, he will no doubt believe that the finals are very much attainable.