4 Main Reasons Why Footballers Dive SO Much

Since football is all about winning, just like every other competitive sport, many teams and players often engage in activities known as “Dark Arts” on the pitch. One such dark art is ‘diving;, where players deliberately throw themselves to the ground to gain an unfair advantage by exaggerating contact.

Footballers dive for a number of different reasons, and even though diving is regarded as illegal, many footballers still do it. This guide will shed light on why some footballers dive on the pitch and the rules set to try and eradicate diving.

Why do football players dive so much?

Players dive for several reasons. Most times, they dive to gain an undue advantage over their opponents. In some cases, however, players choose to take a tumble in order to protect themselves. 

Here are some reasons why football players dive.

#1 To put an opponent in trouble

Football players dive during games to put their opponents in trouble. Players who are on yellow cards often find their opponents hitting the deck with the slightest touch. They do this to increase the possibility of these players getting a red card and putting their team at a numerical disadvantage. 

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Also, because referees could sometimes decide not to call some fouls, some players try to exaggerate contact from an opponent by going to the ground too easily to get the attention of the referee.

This was the situation during the 2020 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic received a yellow card in the first half before receiving his second yellow and, consequently, his marching orders in the second. For his second yellow, he simply contested with Arsenal man Granit Xhaka for the ball and ended up getting stamped by Xhaka, who went down as though Kovacic had hit him.

Without thinking twice, the referee brandished a second yellow at Kovacic, sending him off. Chelsea went on to lose the match 2-1

Here is the foul that led to Kovacic being sent off against Arsenal:

#2 To get a penalty kick

Diving to win penalties is another common reason players dive during games. In football, penalties are awarded when fouls are committed within the 18-yard box, and scoring from a penalty kick is much more likely than scoring from open play in football. Because of this, players often throw themselves to the ground with the slightest touch in the box to convince referees that they have been fouled. 

An example of this was Fikayo Tomori‘s red card during the UEFA Champions League game between AC Milan and Chelsea at San Siro.  Although it seemed like Mason Mount had dived, the referee awarded Chelsea a penalty to give them an opening goal. As a result, Tomori received his matching order being the last man.

Chelsea eventually won the game 2-0 to secure a successive win over the Italian side.

Here is the incident that led to Tomori’s marching order:

In the past, players like Raheem Sterling, Sadio Mane, and Luis Suarez have been branded as players who loved to con referees into awarding them penalties by hitting the deck at the slightest invitation in the opponents’ penalty box.

Here is a clip of Sterling diving inside the penalty box:

#3 To waste time

Football players often turn to dive when they look to steal some seconds off the clock in tight games. When a team holds a slender advantage going into the final minutes of games, their players begin to play for fouls and exaggerate contact.

As a result, they spend minutes rolling around the pitch in fake agony before receiving treatment on the pitch or getting stretchered off the pitch.

#4 Protection

Superstars Neymar and Eden Hazard are two very similar players whose careers have gone in opposite directions in recent years. This may be attributed to their treatment on the football pitch. 

In his stint at Chelsea, Hazard was always at the receiving end of brutal tackles from defenders who aimed to stop him from embarrassing and leaving them for dead on the pitch. The Belgian star would receive tackle after tackle but not go to the ground easily. 

At one point, his then-manager at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, complained that his career was being put in danger by the excessive force usually applied to him. Mourinho’s prediction turned out to be true five years later, as Hazard has endured an injury-riddled spell since joining Real Madrid in 2019.

Most of the injuries may be attributed to the kind of treatment he received in his seven years at Chelsea.

On the other hand, Neymar is one footballer who hardly hesitates to hit the ground. Because of his dribbling skills, defenders tend to try to stop him by any means necessary, including kicking him. As a result, the Brazilian makes sure to go to the ground immediately when he sees a dangerous tackle coming in.

This has helped him to protect himself greatly, and he has remained at the top of his game.

Here are some of Neymar’s dives:

Why do footballers get away with diving?

Sometimes, footballers get away with diving because they do it in a very convincing manner. They learn to act in a way that would give the referee the impression that they had really been fouled, forcing the referee to call a foul and the opponent involved probably getting a card. 

In recent years, however, football has developed more ways of kicking against diving among players. The adoption of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has made it more difficult for players to get away with diving. 

Previously, it was quite tough for referees to decide if a player was legitimately going down after a foul or if the player was exaggerating contact and throwing himself to the floor. With the VAR, referees can now go back to look at the video of the incident to guide them in making decisions regarding simulation by players. 

However, Bukayo Saka was wrongly given a yellow card for diving during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Southampton. The decision raised lots of eyebrows because the referee refused to review his decision with the VAR.

Here is a clip of Saka’s yellow card for his simulation against Southampton:

Is diving considered cheating in football?

Without a shred of doubt, diving is considered cheating in football. Since diving involves pretence and deceit to force referees into making game-changing calls, football governing bodies are strongly against it.

According to Law 12 of the International Football Federation Board, players are to be cautioned for unsporting behaviour of any kind, one of which is simulation. Usually, the caution can be in the form of a yellow card.

Showboating is another action that can be deemed as unsporting behaviour, and you can find out whether it is worthy of a yellow card here.

Moreover, in a bid to reduce the spate of diving in English football, the English FA put rules in place to punish offenders in the summer of 2017. It was decided that offenders would serve a two-match ban if caught diving to win a penalty. 

Despite this, diving is yet to be completely eliminated from the game, with several instances recorded this season.

Can you get a yellow card for diving?

Under the Law 12 of the Laws of the Game of football by IFAB, players should be booked for unsporting behaviour. This means that players who engage in unsporting behaviour must receive at least a yellow card. 

Simulation in the form of diving falls under this category, allowing referees to issue yellow cards to any player that dives. 

For example, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka was shown a yellow card in their Premier League match against Southampton after the referee deemed that he had dived.

Other players such as Ollie Watkins and Alfredo Morelos have also received their marching orders after getting second yellow cards for diving in games.

Here is a clip of the game between Aston Villa and Manchester United, where Ollie Watkins received a second yellow card for simulation.


Diving is one of the biggest problems in modern-day football. Most players want to win cheap penalties and score the resulting kicks for their teams. 

As much as coaches and managers speak up against diving, more work needs to be done by the decision-makers in football to provide severe punishments for players who dive!

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