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First things first. Eduardo Da Silva did dive against Celtic at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, and then converted the penalty to give the Gunners the lead. Whether he dove to win a penalty, or get out of the tackle, or fall because he expected a tackle, I don’t know. He didn’t make an appeal to the referee or anything of that sort, but all in all, it was a yellow card offence. And now, the Brazilian faces a two-match ban for an offence that is committed every weekend in every league in the world, and has been happening for years on end.
Eduardo is not who one would call a dishonest player. Prior to the game against Celtic, never has one seen any instance of him cheating or misbehaving on the pitch, and this isn’t just out of sympathy to the man who had his leg broken less than two years ago thanks to a career-threatening tackle. But, he did seem to dive, although it’s evident that he hasn’t mastered the art as well as some of his more glamorous friends in the football world, who have gotten away with it many a time.
Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Deco, Nicolas Anelka, Ryan Babel, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and the best of them all, Cristiano Ronaldo. The list is endless. Would you say Eduardo is at par with the others in that list, when it comes to trying to con the referee? No. But, interestingly, he’s not half as glamorous or famous as the others, and to make things worse, isn’t English either.
Arsene Wenger has come out in defence of Eduardo, calling UEFA’s charge against his striker a “witch-hunt”, and I can understand where he comes from. Arsenal have suffered considerably in recent years because of simulation, never more so when Wayne “The ultimate professional” Rooney took the plunge at Old Trafford’s hallowed turf in 2004, which ended the Invincibles’ unbeaten run. Ryan Babel fell to the floor all too easily at Anfield in a Champions League quarter final in 2008, which gave Liverpool the win on the night. Also, in recent times, Didier Drogba, one of the strongest men in the Premier League, collapsed to the ground due to what can only be construed as a gentle breeze at the Emirates, winning the free kick that gave Chelsea the lead.
First of all, I don’t understand how Uefa has chosen this particular incident to be worth the retrospective punishment, as the penalty wasn’t even the deciding factor in the tie. Celtic had two shots on target throughout the 180 minutes of football they played against Arsenal, and the Gunners won the tie 5-1 on aggregate. Celtic players and their fans, obviously disappointed with the result and their performance, turned emotionally to the penalty incident, in an attempt to hide from their own flaws and lack of quality. As Wenger pointed out, a number of Scottish officials do work at UEFA, and I needn’t say more. Can every Celtic player put his hand up and say that he has never dived in his entire career? I’m sure even a Celtic fan knows the answer to this one.
Would UEFA have levelled a similar charge if the player in question was Wayne Rooney? Or Steven Gerrard? Hell no! Arsenal players are always a soft target for the officials, because of their less-glamorous image and low-key persona. Also, there’s something of an Arsenal obsession within the media, for whatever they do, whether it’s a young player who makes an entry into the squad (Wilshere, Walcott), their transfer policies, or if it’s a string of bad results. The media loves to talk about Arsenal, and there’s no reason they will stop now.
James Lawton of “The Independent” has written an article on this incident, and when he claims Robert Pires’ dive against Pompey a few years back to be the “ultimate example of shameless diving”, it’s for everyone to see how Arsenal are vilified oh-so-easily by the British media. Pires has since been branded a diver, and Eduardo might be too, for this one incident. When Owen wins a controversial penalty, it’s termed “clever”, when Rooney or Gerrard go down, they are called professionals, who want to win at all costs, but God forbid, if it’s an Arsenal player, he has committed an offence which will be described as the death of football.
Diving should be eradicated from the sport, and I’m all for it. If Eduardo becomes the fall guy, then Arsenal fans must accept it, but UEFA, be mindful of the fact that all Arsenal fans will observe your reaction to every dive in the Champions League very carefully from now on, and would like to see each and every player, whether it’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, treated the same way.
Till then, I’m on the lookout for any clips which involve a Celtic player taking the plunge.