Eoin Hand: I see kids diving now, it's shameful
I was watching an underage game recently and was disappointed to hear a coach screaming at a youngster to "go down" in the penalty area.
I don't know whether the youngster heard him or not but, sure enough, down he went when a challenge came in - imitating to perfection what he witnesses regularly from top players on TV.
The conditioning of these youngsters is shameful and a sad reflection of what is going on at senior level, particularly in the Premier League.
Today's star performers earn huge salaries that supposedly reflect their status. However, surely with this massive monetary reward must come extra responsibility when they are on the pitch 'entertaining' what is now a global TV audience.
Why can't the powers-that-be - administrators, managers and coaches - see the big picture here with regard to the next generation?
Everybody acknowledges that sport provides an ideal avenue to help mould character and integrity through competition and the rules involved in the various disciplines. So, do we want to teach our kids that winning is all that matters and cheating is part of that process?
I recall when Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler seemed to have been tumbled in the box in a vital game away to Arsenal. The referee gave a penalty, but Robbie immediately remonstrated with the official and insisted that he wasn't fouled.
Would that happen today? Definitely not.
The influx and influence of different cultures has changed the ethos of the game dramatically. During my own playing days across the water, you would be open to ridicule from your team-mates if you 'dived.'
I remember the great Frannie Lee of Manchester City and England fame being accused of 'diving' to earn penalties. He didn't - rather his 'ploy' was to run the ball at pace into the penalty area and then draw a clumsy challenge. Very effective - but fair.
We all know that top-end sport is big business these days and the result is seen to be all that matters. We hear this mantra trotted out by managers when they try to disguise their thoughts by insisting that performance is the key.
Sure it is, but sadly it seems that so many top coaches are now wrongly influenced by pressures coming from all angles. Attitudes have changed and unethical justification is the order of the day.
We've seen it in other sports, notably athletics, cycling and swimming. The general consensus seems to be that most winners are cheating in some form or other. This viewpoint has got to change and only strict application of rules from the top down can achieve this.
Why, for instance, has golf established such a 'self-policing' attitude at all levels?
Essentially, it is because any cheating or breaking of rules in golf is dealt with immediately and uniformly in an equitable way.
These principles enable this sport to reflect total honesty and integrity on an individual basis. There are many examples of the top pros calling penalties on themselves despite the big bucks at stake.
From my own time in international football, I, along with many others, was a strong advocate for goal-line technology. But, how long did it take before FIFA boss Sepp Blatter saw the light?
Such a simple solution, yet a major step forward in assisting officials to make the right decisions.
Contrary to the reasoning that the natural flow of game would be disrupted, the truth is that it has added to the drama and the excitement. Referees are not under intolerable pressure to make instant decisions that can have far- reaching effects.
The same logic should apply in dealing with the diving cancer that has entered the top flight of football.
Any club that condones, encourages or ignores 'simulation' or 'diving' must be dealt with - either immediately or retrospectively - and punished accordingly.
A points deduction or loss of a particular game, depending on the gravity of the incidents, would reap immediate benefits. Managers and coaches would be encouraged to instruct their players that winning can be achieved through more diligent application of tactics and skills.
Ask Thierry Henry if he was part of a cleaned-up regime would he repeat his infamous 'handball'? I'm sure the answer would be 'no' and his great career would not be tainted by that one unsavoury decision he made.
We are at a crossroads now. I freely admit that my love for the game that I have got so much from - playing, managing and advising - has waned to a considerable degree. Many real football people are equally concerned.
It has got to a level where basic integrity and rules are constantly being challenged. Cheating has become an art form.
Jose Mourinho is a great coach, but sadly his modus operandi leaves a lot to be desired. He is a prime example of how wrong the 'successful' methods have become.
He ridicules officials and uses every minor or major contentious decision for his own gain. In fact, he has become quite boring, since you know exactly what's coming when he's being interviewed.
It is time to return to the old values if the game that we all love is to flourish. Harsh methods must be applied to protect all of those who want to play fair.
We must follow the example being set by the world's best player, Lionel Messi. He is the perfect role model. He is the character who, with his skill and integrity, sets the standard that children should aspire to.
Ronaldo, unfortunately, has the opposite approach. His achievements, though excellent, are tainted.
All the current talk is about the billions in the game - mega TV deals, astronomical wages and the obscene amounts being paid for players. But, somewhere along the line, the 'beautiful game' has been forgotten.
I have a clear message for all young players out there - don't copy everything you see on television. What is the point in admiring a trophy or a medal that really only states that you're a cheat? Would you like this to haunt your football memories for the rest of your life?
All supporters must rise up to ensure a healthy future for the 'beautiful game' we love so dearly.
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