Paul Parker

Fergie right about foreign divers

Paul Parker

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Sir Alex Ferguson is right: foreigners do dive more than British players. It might be unpalatable to some but it is the truth.

I have to agree with Sir Alex that it is something that has come from the foreign game. Over-exaggerating fouls, over-exaggerating contact: these have come in more and more with the influx of players from overseas.

This debate was sparked once again by Sergio Aguero, who said on Monday that he believes it is harder for foreign players to get decisions from referees, provoking Sir Alex's response. I would have believed it if an Englishman had said it in Spain or in Russia, but in England our referees are very, very honest. It is the stiff upper lip and the belief in fair play - typically British qualities.

You look at our political approach: we treat everyone the same. So that is a hell of a comment coming from Aguero, when normally he keeps quiet and just gets on with his football. There's never anything said by him, so I don't know where he has got that statement from.

Just look at the game Aguero was involved in at the weekend. I know his complaint related to penalties that were not awarded to Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez, but we saw John Arne Riise throw himself to ground in dramatic fashion to win a penalty too. That particular foreign player didn't have any trouble getting the decision from an English referee.

That is not to say us Brits are blameless, of course. We get involved in some embarrassing cases ourselves but if you are talking about overall trends then it is fair to say that this development has come from overseas.

Us Brits have since adopted it. It's like when you are a baby and you observe and copy what goes on around you. So we have fallen into the trap of exaggerating contact too.

Even before my time some British players had a reputation for diving - Francis Lee being the obvious example. But in the mass-media age - when TV shows so many games and we have legions of fans and journalists blogging and writing about the game - there is much more scrutiny. YouTube means incidents can be highlighted much more than before.

This development has been coupled with a great influx of overseas stars who are more liable to indulge in simulation. The result is that diving is now a huge issue in the game.

Some players are paying for their actions as well. Luis Suarez has been denied a couple of strong penalty claims - certainly the one at the weekend at Norwich was a definite foul - and that is because a reputation for simulation now precedes him.

If they catch Suarez, players can tell the referee there was no contact and that he dived, and match officials are more inclined to be swayed to that way of thinking given his track record in that regard.

But the reason Suarez isn't getting penalties isn't that he's foreign - it is because referees are suspicious of him. It happened to an Englishman in Andy Johnson a few years ago too. He wasn't getting penalties because of his reputation and referees are human at the end of the day: they get fed up when players try to con them all the time. Eventually they will say no, and that is what is happening at the present moment in time.

We have to stop blaming referees. They are being conned by the players who are quite frankly taking the mick out of the officials and their fellow pros. So how do we stop it? Well, I think naming and shaming is the way forward.

There could be a committee of referees and ex-pros to analyse incidents and dish out retrospective punishments if necessary. You can't change results, but they can embarrass the guilty player by banning him for up to three games. Very quickly you will find managers will no longer tolerate dives and it will come out of the game.

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