If you’re like me then I’m sure you’ve seen soccer players flop during a game and fake an injury. It seems to happen in almost every game. The reasons why this happens can be varied and sometimes complicated. In this article, we’ll look at those reasons and hopefully explain the motivation behind it.
So, why do soccer players flop or fake injuries? There are 5 reasons:
- Attract the referee’s attention
- Create a potential goal-scoring opportunity
- To waste time
- Punish another player
- Attempt to regain possession of the ball
Regardless of how you feel about a soccer player pretending to be hurt, each of these reasons is valid in a player’s eyes at the moment they make the decision to flop. To understand why let’s look at each reason before going on to explain what the punishment is for a player who fakes an injury and why sometimes appearances can be deceptive.
The Terminology Used in Soccer to Describe Faking an Injury
Before we do this I do need to quickly explain the different terms used in soccer for this as there are 4 main terms used to describe the same action.
- Faking an injury
- and Simulation
Each of these terms is used to describe the same action – falling to the ground with the aim of gaining an unfair advantage. However, option number 4 – simulation – is the most important one to be aware of as that is the official soccer term used.
When you fake an injury, dive, or flop in soccer it is officially known as “simulation”. This is the term used in the official rules of the game of soccer which describes simulation as “An action which creates a wrong/false impression that something has occurred when it has not; committed by a player to gain an unfair advantage“ [source]
Now let’s look at the 5 reasons for faking an injury.
The 5 Reasons Explained
1. Attract the referee’s attention
The first and most basic reason for a player faking an injury is to draw the attention of the referee.
The referee is the ultimate decision-maker for anything that happens on the soccer field during a game. What they say goes. If a player wants any decision to be made in their favor then the referee has to be convinced that is the correct decision. This is where flopping or faking injuries comes in.
If a player believes that they have been wronged in some way during a game, or they simply want to gain an advantage over the opposition, then they want the referee to know this.
To achieve this they will do something dramatic such as fake an injury or flop knowing that the referee cannot ignore this. If a player seems injured the referee has a duty of care to make sure it is not too serious and whether the game should be paused because of this injury.
Once a player has taken a dive or is on the floor looking injured then the referee has no option but to look and make a decision over whether the game should pause or carry on.
It’s even been shown that a player flopping next to the referee is three times more likely to have a decision go their way than if the referee is far away from the player. [source]
Every player knows that if the referee doesn’t see any reason to stop the game then the game will continue.
2. Create a potential goal-scoring opportunity
Another reason a soccer player may take a dive and fake an injury is to create a potential goal-scoring opportunity for their team.
If the player is in possession of the ball near the opposition’s goal but is unable to create an opportunity to actually take a shot at goal they may decide it’s time to pretend to be hurt before any potential opportunity disappears.
The idea behind this is that the referee will believe the player has been injured by a player from the opposite team and award the “injured” player a set-piece near the opposition’s goal.
Being awarded a set-piece near the opponent’s goal is a clear chance for the team to score a goal. Whether it is a free-kick or even a penalty the team has a higher chance of scoring from this than they would in open play.
3. To waste time
The third reason a player may fake an injury during a soccer game is to waste time.
You may have noticed that the clock in soccer doesn’t stop regardless of what is happening in the game. If there are any delays or stoppages in play the referee simply adds more time to the end of the half.
However, this extra time added to the game is often less than accurate. The time added on is often less the time the game was paused and soccer players are aware of this. [source]
To take advantage of this it’s not uncommon to see a player fake an injury with the aim of stopping the play for as long as possible. This will happen when a team is in the lead, or occasionally when the game is tied if that result would be beneficial to the team of the player flopping. The player knows that as long as the game is stopped then the opposition team has zero chance of scoring a goal.
One soccer player who is infamous for using this tactic is the Brazilian soccer player Neymar. His actions have been analyzed and it has been shown that Neymar flops an average of once every 8 1/2 minutes when his team is in the lead! [source]
Take a look at this video below to see some of his worst flops!
4. Punish another player
Another reason a player may fake an injury is with the aim of getting another player punished.
During a soccer game, there are times when two (or more) players on opposite teams can irritate each other and become increasingly frustrated with each other. This can lead to a player trying to get the other player unfairly punished.
One of the ways to do this is to convince the referee that the opposite player has committed a foul and deserves to be punished in some way. To do this a player may fake an injury when their opponent is near them and hope the referee believes that their opponent injured them.
This is one of the main reasons faking an injury is considered to be so unsportsmanlike or simply unfair. Trying to get a player punished for no reason is not a good look.
5. Attempt to regain possession of the ball
The last reason a player may fake an injury is in an attempt to regain possession of the ball after they have lost it.
You may sometimes see a player flop in the moments after they have been tackled or simply when they have lost possession of the ball due to the pressure of an opponent beside them.
Rather than let the opposition team move away with the ball the player may decide to fake or simulate, an injury in the hope that the referee will stop the game and award possession of the ball back to the player who originally had the ball.
This is considered to be a fairly cheap tactic that only reflects the player’s inability to keep hold of or use the ball effectively. A better player would work hard to win back the ball for the team, or not lose the ball in the first place!
The Punishment for Faking an Injury
Now we know why a player may fake an injury on the soccer field let’s clarify what the punishment is for doing this.
The rules of soccer state that one of the circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior includes if a player:
“attempts to deceive the referee, e.g. by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)“IFAB Law of the Game
To be cautioned means that the player is shown a yellow card and is one step closer to being removed from the game. To find more out about being cautioned or being shown a yellow card in soccer click here to check out my article – A Yellow Card in Soccer: A Complete Guide.
A player can’t receive or be shown, a red card for diving in soccer. If a player is shown a red card after diving it will because they have previously been shown a yellow card and upon receiving a second yellow card for the dive they are then shown a red card as a consequence of being shown 2 yellow cards in one game.
Being shown a yellow card is a serious punishment and one that a player should be aware of if they attempt to deceive the referee.
But despite the threat of punishment soccer players still go ahead and fake injuries as the potential rewards are seen as greater than the potential punishment.
This video below shows some of the worst and funniest attempts at flopping that you will see!
Sometimes Players Aren’t Faking Even If It Looks That Way
One last thing to be aware of is that there are times when it can seem as though a player has flopped and is pretending to be hurt when the reality is that they are actually hurt!
I know from experience that when you’re out on the soccer field and running at full pace a small touch from an opposition player which from an observer’s perspective can seem like nothing can actually have a big impact on a player.
I remember once receiving a small kick on my ankle from another player that seemed like nothing from another person’s view but it made me lose my footing and momentum and hurt for days after!
Apart from being a great reminder and reason to always wear shin guards with ankle protection such as these ones, it serves as a warning not to always judge soccer players too harshly. Sometimes they are actually hurt!
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why soccer players fake injuries.
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