So Jon Moss and Jamie Vardy didn’t half kick up a storm over the weekend, did they? It was 56 minutes into Leicester City vs West Ham on Sunday afternoon, with the league leaders one goal to the good thanks to a typical Leicester counter attack that resulted in Vardy slotting into the bottom corner, when the 22-goal scoring striker was handed a second yellow card for diving in the area and all holy hell broke lose.
Vardy battered Moss with a foul mouthed rant, the capacity King Power crowd morphed from a joyful, clapper clapping group to a buzzling crowd spitting verminous anger and Jon Moss sort of lost control on the game all together. Leicester wasn’t the only place where it was all kicking off, because of course Twitter bursted into debate and up roar. “It was a clear dive!” “Ogbonna has bundled him over!” Or, my particular favourite, “it was a tangle of legs he should have just played on!” Yep, everyone watching the game had their own take on the issue, and the debate raged way beyond the final whistle and into the night.
Before we move on to the crux of the issue, Vardy’s dive, and yes it was a “dive”, it needs to be said that the reaction and outrage and near personal attacks on Moss from fans and supposed professional pundits alike has been outrageous and blown way over proportion, which testament to just how much anguish was blown into Moss’ direction. No matter how many mistakes Moss made later on in the game after the Vardy incident, it’s pretty clear that the extreme visceral reaction against him in this particular instance only occurred because it came against Leicester.
Most of the country, save North London, want Leicester to win the League, for obvious reasons. Not only will it be the unlikeliest single sporting event ever to actually happen, it gives all supporters of average to mediocre clubs that glimour of hope that one day they’ll be able to do something special too. So to see that dream be merely threatened in that moment led to a, understandable but never the less unnecessary, over the top reaction. If it was Manchester United’s Ashley Young, a Liverpool era Luis Suarez or literally any Arsenal player in Vardy’s place, the reaction would have been no where near as pronounced.
But onto the epicentre that started the earth quake of discussion, Vardy’s dive and the decision for him to be a red card. It’s clearly not a dive in the simplest sense of the word. There was contact between the attacker and the defender, it’s not as if Vardy took a WWE esque swan dive and rolled around like he’d been speared by Batista. He’s too clever for that.
Instead Vardy waits for Angelo Ogbonna to come over to him and when he’s close enough he throws his trailing leg into him, which in turn trips him, and Ogbonna, up. It’s abundantly clear that Vardy instigates the contact, he throws his leg into Ogbonna to make it appear as if he’s been fouled and to try and win the penalty. He tried to deceive the ref through simulation and it failed. The referee caught him out and rightfully gave him a yellow card for it.
The problem football has at the moment is that what Vardy did is called a ‘dive’ when it wasn’t. The word ‘dive’ creates a clear image of someone going down without any contact what’s so ever, but what Vardy did to try and win the penalty was still cheating. He didn’t go down feigning contact, he went down after creating the contact in attempt to get his team the upper hand.
I don’t believe it’s bad or immoral what Vardy attempted, it’s just another way to try and create an advantage for your team and The modern game all about getting every advantage over your opponent as possible, and trying to deceive the referee to get your team a penalty is a part of the game now. There is no use in denying it. Whether it’s diving out right like Winston Reid arguably did later on in that very game or purposely putting your leg into an opponent’s path so he no choice but knock you over or something entirely different, trying to fool the referee is just a legitimate tactic in trying to score as any other.
It’s a risk, a big risk, but not a crime, and as the law of averages will dictate players who take that risk will get caught every now and then. It’s a party trick that Vardy has been doing all season and up until Sunday it’s had a pretty near perfect success rate, it’s gotten Leicester penalties in vital games and earned them points in their incredible title charge. On Sunday his luck just ran out and he was caught red handed.
The only grievous thing Vardy did on Sunday was that he thought the risk was worth taking at a time when it probably wasn’t. His team were winning 1-0, a score line they’ve been rather good at protecting of late, and he was in a position in which he probably could have scored from anyway. But, as Leicester have had all the luck in the world up until this point and Vardy had yet to have been caught out on his antics, he may well have thought it was worth it. Jon Moss, however, wasn’t fooled. He won.
Deceiving the referee is what happens now and those who scream “cheaters” and don’t roll around in the muck with everyone else may well stay clean and holy, but they probably won’t be awarded for doing so.