Ask 100 people out there what the biggest problems in soccer is. A few poor, misguided souls will tell you that it’s boring, but that isn’t a problem with the game, it’s a problem with their perception. The biggest problem with soccer is flopping.
Flopping has embedded itself in over a centuries worth of history in the European Leagues. Truth be told, it even took England awhile to adopt flopping into their play, but with the influx of foreign players, flopping became a part of the game.
The problem with this kind of thing happening in Europe is that those leagues are mired in tradition. It takes a huge coup to make any sort of changes. They are traditionalist run leagues. UEFA is no exception. Consider that it took England up until 1992 to have their first foreign manager. It took until 1965 to allow substitutions. Changes simply don’t happen all that often.
That being said, there are initiatives being taken to cut out flopping, but it is not enforced consistently, and recent events in the Champions League have shown us that it is still not being taken seriously. Real Madrid’s Marcelo made a horrendous flop against Wolfsburg. UEFA then decided, upon further review, not to fine him. Have a look:
That’s not to say that it’s always like this. Angel Di Maria was shown two yellow cards last year when he flopped twice against Arsenal. Some see it as a more egregious crime than others. The point is, there is no consistency and there likely won’t be for quite some time.
Which is where MLS has it right. With very little traditions to be mired in and very little to fight through, everything MLS does becomes the tradition. These initial few decades will set the groundwork for where MLS will be a century down the road. Thankfully, they appear to be looking at the UEFA model and one-upping it.
Look no further than Masato Kudo. The Japanese forward was suspended for a match after ‘obvious simulation’ that earned his Vancouver Whitecaps a penalty, which was converted to put down the Houston Dynamo. It wasn’t the most obvious flop in the world, and that’s why changes had to be made to MLS’s rule book. But changes like that will be blessings down the line in similar circumstances, when a player has the chance to go to ground but thinks ahead to the punishment it will incur.
Kudo’s was a swift and just punishment that will deter such acts in the future.
But Kudo is not a one-off. It seems like every act of embellishment is getting noticed and being punished. That same week, Ryan Hollingshead was fined for simulation, albeit earlier in the game, hence the lack of a similar punishment.
MLS is laying down the law that diving and simulation is not welcome in this sport and the longer that they continue dropping the guillotine on guys that disgracefully go to ground for no reason, the closer they will get to eliminating it completely. It is unrealistic to think that a referee is going to be able to determine in a split second whether any given tackle was a flop or a legitimate foul. At least not with perfect accuracy.
That is why it is such a big step that MLS is taking to revisit these plays after matches, where they have all the time in the world, and get it right. Flopping has no place in the sport and it is wonderful to see a league finally spearheading the effort to eliminate the blight.