How much cheating goes on (in football)?

Alan Burdick, a writer for The New Yorker (one of our favorite English-language weekly magazines), summarizes some recent research in this area conducted by Chris Stride, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield:

First, [Stride] had to define cheating. In soccer, all sorts of manhandling—jostling, obstruction, shirt pulling—goes on as a matter of course. Stride ignored that stuff, as well as offside violations, poorly timed tackles, and what he refers to in the study as “intentional rule violations due to a player losing his temper” …

Instead Stride focussed on the officially unfair schemes that players employ to win a strategic advantage for their team or to keep the opposing side from gaining one. He places these into two broad categories. First is what is known in soccer as the “professional foul”—a blatant attempt to stop or alter the opponent’s goal or attack. If their striker is making a beeline toward your goal, and you’re the last defender, you may find it necessary to collide with him at top speed or trip him from behind. If the ball is about to go into your net, maybe you use your hand to keep it out. If your team is ahead, there’s time to be wasted—by kicking the ball out of bounds, or by discovering that you need to stop and tie your laces. Such infractions can draw a yellow or even a red card. But players commit them regardless, for the larger good of the team.

Then there’s what Stride calls “classic cheating” or “simulation cheating”—flops, dives, players writhing with pains that magically evaporate the moment the referee looks away. In some respects, classic cheats are just the inverse of, and perhaps a natural response to, professional fouls: the former are typically committed by attackers, Stride found, to get the defenders in trouble, while the latter are largely committed by defenders against attackers.

Is “doping” or the use of performance-enhancing drugs another form of cheating? Also, is there an optimal (or unavoidable) amount of cheating in football–or in any other activity, for that matter? Read Alan Burdick’s entire essay on cheating in football here.

Was he just faking it?

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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