A dive or “simulation”, as UEFA use in their crusade to make football’s greyest area more technical, can generally be described as a theatrical motion made by a player in close proximity with an opponent to gain an advantage for his team. Adjudicating when a dive is not a dive is regarded as one of the most difficult tasks that officials face.
However, when Eduardo did his now infamous “sniper impression” against Celtic, the authorities decided to move. The great white beaks, capes n’all, were ready to make their mark, set a precedent and finally enforce that “fair play” slogan we’re all sick to death of hearing. And set a precedent they did; it just took two goes to get it right.
An Arsenal statement on the overturned ban read, “We were able to show there was contact between the keeper and Eduardo and that the decision should be annulled.”
UEFA’s comment: “Following examination of all the evidence…it was not established to the panel’s satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty.”
So contact was the main basis for Arsenal’s defense. Contact was proven to the satisfaction of the committee and the cancellation of Eduardo’s punishment was ratified – in effect, deeming that the original charge was made in error.
So there you have your precedent. Not quite the original aim of the panel, but hey! At least something is now set in stone. Once any contact is made a player may fall to the ground as theatrically and ostentatiously as they feel without any fear of punishment. Stick in a leg to brush a keeper’s shorts to eradicate any threat of “simulation”. This is the message sent from the UEFA band of intellects. They are the suits; so this policy may not be second-guessed.
This isn’t the ingenious, concise solution to the long running diving debate that we all hoped for. But at least our mandate is now clear. After all, defenders go clattering into strikers all the time in what are called “intelligent fouls”. Maybe this could just be viewed as some kind of “forwards revenge”. Disciplinary committees now have the handy number of only having to identify if contact was made. Managers may issue directives to players like Stephen Hunt or Paul Scholes to not tackle in their penalty area. Even keepers could be told not to go to ground. But at least it’s all in the name of good fun.
Of course, Eduardo is unlucky to be the definitive character in this “decision for the ages” stance by UEFA. Perhaps he lies in bed at night scratching his head thinking, “If only the first hearing had seen the contact like the referee”. If that thought had come to pass, maybe he could have avoided what the future will declare as the “Eduardo rule”. At the end of the day though, we should just all be happy that we have UEFA patrolling the beat to protect us from those evil power-rich clubs.