How Dare We? Will the real Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s sinning saint, stand up?

Jake suspects Salut! Sunderland is up to making mischief
Jake suspects Salut! Sunderland is up to making mischief

Salut! Sunderland has always felt perfectly entitled to stick its nose into other people’s business. We’re Sunderland supporters but also have views on football generally, whether it’s Pete Sixsmith after one of his non-league excursions or Ken Gambles demanding compulsory wearing of pink mittens by shirtpullers and goggles by divers of all teams. These impertinent observations will henceforth appear under the How Dare We? banner. Did I say something about divers? ….

The look of pained innocence on Gareth Bale’s face was priceless. “Me! Dive? You’ve got the wrong man, guv,” you could almost hear him telling the ref, Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz though plain Antonio Mateu will do.

But we all, or most of us, know better. It was, as is usually the case with Bale, a fair cop.

It didn’t need anti-English (or Welsh) bias of the sort that’s usually alleged by the hard-of-thinking when a foreign ref gives anything against “one of ours”.

Bale was not just another blameless victim, his unjust reputation having been flown out by EasyJet to wherever it is that Mateu lives. A referee accustomed to the routines of diving and feigning of injury in La Liga had found it quite easy to detect at attempt to hoodwink him at White Hart Lane.

And what a minor tragedy it is. Here we have a young British player equipped with a formidable array of footballing skills – ball control, movement, pace, strength, finishing power – that all of us can admire except when he’s playing against us. I have deliberately chosen a clip that illustrates his positive attributes.

Yet over and over again, he invites the world outside Tottenham (in the broadest sense, meaning the worldwide Spurs catchment area) to see in him the instinct of the cheat.

We saw it at Sunderland. Safely put aside the big-club bias of Shearer and the rest of the MoTD panel. Opinions, I accept, differ fiercely but I was happy to have the endorsement of a top former referee Graham Poll (flawed as even he was) for my own view: “… there is contact but only after Baleโ€™s leg is crumbling.”

In my piece at the time for ESPN, I noted that only Bale himself truly has the answer to the questions asked about him. But he does talk about “entitlement”, the right to go down if he senses a challenge. Why a player would wish to “win” a dubious penalty rather than complete a wonderful run and score or make a goal, as he might have done at the SoL or even last night, baffles me.

Jake prepares for another vervous matchday
Jake prepares for another vervous matchday

If you want to stick to SAFC matters, Guess the Score (at QPR vs us), Who Are You? and the rest are all easy to find at the home page:

But I am as sure as I can be that it comes in part from the training ground and managerial instruction. Football has descended to such a squalid level that players are coached in the art of cheating and getting away with. Let us be charitable and say AVB does not explicitly tell Bale to dive when in the penalty area, even on a night when suspension from the next game is bizarrely considered a desirable outcome. But where, otherwise, does Bale get it from? What was he like at school when so much less was at stake but far, far lesser players were up against him – was he falling all over the place even then?

There is, naturally, another view. Steve Luckings is a former colleague of mine, a good lad and a Spurs supporter. He has contributed to these pages in the past (and I hope Malbranque’s brilliance with Lyon this season has caused him to revise his dim view of him).

Last night, happy with the excellent 3-0 win against Inter Milan, he posted this simple comment at Facebook:” Gareth Bale: owner of Inter Milan.”

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There followed this exchange:


But isn’t it a shame, Steve, that he ruins his real prospect of greatness by this utterly immature weakness for diving? I fully appreciate that cheating may as well these days be written into the football coaching manuals, and is probably taught on the training ground and insisted upon by managers, but Bale needs to rise above these pressures and use his talent, not his preference for going to ground with no contact, running into opponents’ legs, falling theatrically at the least contact.


I couldn’t disagree more. Bale’s highlights reel will not be his best tumbles, they will be his best runs, his best dribbles, his best goals. Ronaldo perfected the art of leaving your leg in a tackle and you only have to wake up in the same time zone as Messi for a him to be rewarded a free kick bit people seem quite happy to only focus on their attributes.


No. Divers are divers however talented and whoever they are. Ronaldo, like Bale, is reviled for it, just as he – again like Bale – is admired for the runs, dribbles goals. It saddens more than sickens me. And I am not partisan on this; I hammered Larsson at my site for an outrageous dive last season, regularly upbraided Gyan and now criticise Sessegnon. I don’t know how to eradicate it (or feigning injury, shirt pulling, wrestling at set pieces etc) but it is challenging my love of the game.


The only way to eradicate it, in my view, is to make it a non-contact sport. The same as making every handball incident a free kick/penalty, taking away the final call of the ref for interpretation of intent. I’m sorry but I disagree with the idea that was his most telling contribution or that people will remember that incident from a game an admittedly ridiculously poor Inter Milan team were terrified of him in

So, nothing is resolved. My assessment of Steve’s view is that he is not denying Bale is a diver but saying this is an insignificant aspect of his game.

He’ll yell if I misrepresent him. Over to you – Spurs fans very welcome to contribute …

The Magic Roundabout of Coincidence: Monsieur Salut’s story at ESPN about the judge, the headmaster and the lag
combines football, drinking, friendship and chance ….

Monsieur Salut, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, by Matt

18 thoughts on “How Dare We? Will the real Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s sinning saint, stand up?”

  1. Gareth Bale is an excellent player who unfortunately ‘milks’ contact in a despicable way.I can’t remember ever having these debates about Jimmy Greaves whose main purpose was putting the ball in the net not trying to win dubious free-kicks or penalties

      • Yes, Lee was the supreme master. But then even he began to be challenged by some of the overseas imports that began to come into the british game.

  2. To quote Michael Owen….”he gave Suarez the opportunity to go down’ which both calls Suarez a cheat but exonerates him from being one in one badly constructed sentence. I hope Owen us never given the opportunity to give those opinions on MOTD again

    • Hardly surprising given that Owen was a master of the art himself.

      The people who could do most to eliminate this increasingly odious practice, are the managers and coaches. They, however are unlikely to take the initiative themselves – maybe the FA should start deducting points when camera evidence shows that a dive has clearly affected a result? [ a penalty for instance ].

  3. The Laws of the Game (Law 12) state

    “A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

    kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
    trips or attempts to trip an opponent
    jumps at an opponent
    charges an opponent
    strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
    pushes an opponent
    tackles an opponent”

    Note the phrase “in a manner considered to be careless, reckless or using excessive force.” Now that is open to interpretation by the ref and makes me wonder which part of the law was applied last Saturday for the two penalties at the SSOL, but it is pretty obvious that where there is some incidental contact it isn’t a free kick and a player who exaggerates the contact is not “entitled” to do so. Someone tell Alan Hansen please.

    • The first penalty was because Gardner attempted to kick or attempted to trip an apponent. The second was given because Graham was pushed.
      Strange that this law does not even mention shirt pulling which obviously should be illegal.

      • Yes I know why they were given but were they careless (possibly) reckless (doubtful) or using excessive force (definitely not)? As has been stated many times football is a contact sport but there is no mention of intent in Law 12. Gardner’s tackle was poor and mistimed, Senderos’s tug deliberate but minimal. Halsey gave them both. Had I been refereeing an under 11’s match (about my standard) I would have given neither.

  4. Bale’s antics would be better suited to Spanish football. Not because diving is more common there but because when it happens there is no debate about it, nobody’s appalled by it, it seems to be accepted. That’s why I rarely watch Spanish football.

  5. Fine to lecture and pontificate from on high about other teams’ players and their faults. I don’t like diving and believe it is up to referees to do their jobs. Love the classic comment from Bill(obviously unbiased) Harris bleating about St Sessegnon the only player at top level that is fouled mercilessly and never, never dives!. Presumably is the only player with a licence to go down “as a form of self defence” Yep. There’s always one who posts without actually realising they give us a clown to put bias into perspective. Terrible- opposing players but what one of our’s? perish the thought. Just off to rest my ribs as they can only take so much laughing!!!!

    • I happen to agree with your main point but whether or not I am “on high”, you are wrong to suggest I lecture and pontificate only about “other teams’ players and their faults”. Proper reading of the piece makes it clear I make no exceptions for SAFC players. Bill can answer for himself but you are correct in implying Sess has no more right than anyone else to go down in an attempt to fool the ref.

      • I didn’t say that Sess was the only player who was fouled mercilessly, nor did I say that he never dives. I mentioned Sess simply because he featured in the article, which, it appears, “just me” did not read properly. It also appears he did not read my comment correctly. Unlike “Just Me” I won’t resort to personal insults.

  6. another Spurs fan here, I love Bale to bits but yes his diving is slightly shameful to the extent that he doesnt really need to be doing that kind of thing. were far to good a ream these days to warrant the need to cheat the ref into giving away a penalty but sadly it happens and will continue to happen. also there was an Inter player who dived which was even more obvious a dive than Bales was but because of Bales stature within the game it will be magnified 10x that of any other player, its almost grounding the player where he is currently elevated by recent weeks of amazing performances showing that yeah he is actually human afterall.

    Makes me laugh why any player would dive when there are cameras in every part of the ground that are more telling than any ref decision. compile all divers and there dives and sit them down and make them watch them back and see how embarrassed they feel after ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. After the Sunderland dive, Bale himself said “… if you feel contact it is not a dive ….”.
    Someone needs to tell Gareth that football IS a contact sport and feeling a slight contact is NOT a foul and NOT an excuse to throw tourself to the ground.
    I have some sympathy with Sessegnon as he constantly gets chopped down and receives no protection from the officials. His “dives” rarely, if ever, happen in the penalty area and, I think, are a form of self defense. Having said this diving, like shirt-pulling and holding in the box are ruining the game I love and need to be stamped out.

  8. Completely agree with you! I’m a Spurs fan and am embarrassed that some players for my team hit the ground rather than accept that their touch was poor! Parker also has collapsible knee syndrome when it looks like he’s going to give the ball away again. BUT… For every soft tumble that these guys make, the honest players like Dembele and Defoe get kicked with no award given. I fully support referees booking divers and people playing for free kicks, but you’ll never get rid of it, especially in Europe due to the blinkered nature of some referees.

  9. yo.. Spurs fan here, i was at the game last night, and we laughed about it! (as well as booing the ref for pantomime fun!) Im afraid, it was obviously, clearly,.. a dive!

    I, like you, hate this in football, but also the way these desicion are reached! – If refs had an y common sense/balls/the freedom to make a decision,. I would like to think that these players would be laughed at, told to get up, and get on wiht the game.

    They are young men that want to win, fine, but I agree I often feel like I actually detest professional football at times!!! – Disgusting really, ๐Ÿ™ – Oh well, I love the sunderland fans and Martin O Neill, all the best to ya!

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