James Lawton: Enough of the jokes, it's time we got serious about diving

What is needed is someone with guts to stand up for the name of football

The Football Association video reviewers must surely have Monday as a double-shower day, the second one coming immediately after the kind of shift which yesterday included analysis of allegations that Robin van Persie delivered an utterly gratuitous cheap shot to Yohan Cabaye and Robert Huth stamped on Luis Suarez.

Such were the routine items on a disciplinary agenda which now must also include, prominently, an hourly monitoring of Ashley Cole's contribution to the social network, which has become almost as shallow and self-absorbed and offensive as that of his former wife Cheryl.

For several days now she has been telling the nation of the extreme angst brought on not only by her ex-husband's serial infidelities but the professional betrayals of a certain Mr Simon Cowell. These, she tells us, brought her not only to the point of firing off expletive-laden text messages but one where her whole body trembled and her head was exploding, which might just have been the experience for anyone who had the nerve and the patience to read on.

Ms Cole is, of course, beyond football's jurisdiction, which is just as well, because the old game has more than enough of its own capable of inviting unprecedented levels of ridicule.

This brings us to the shocking behaviour of Gareth Bale and the aforementioned Suarez.

Diving is such an implicit part of football now that it takes something quite remarkable to draw special attention and what Bale and Suarez did on Sunday took us well beyond the realms of self-parody.

Mark Lawrenson, a pundit who mostly manages an admirable balance between professional know-how and a good sense of humour, said that one could only laugh at the bizarre attempts by Bale and Suarez to confuse referees. Suarez's most notable dive in the game against Stoke came in instalments. First he half-fell, then he gave it the full-star landing. Lawrenson said he was impelled to laugh but, hopefully, it was an instant reaction to the ludicrousness of what he saw and quite separated from its grim implication of shameless cheating. It was a response that could only have been precisely reproduced when Bale went into orbit without any help at all from Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

But the laughter freezes, surely, when you consider how such actions now come in an unbroken stream, and how much damage they are causing to the integrity of the business which pays such huge rewards to "professionals" to whom you like to think some basic responsibilities have been entrusted.

One is to perform honestly. Another is to observe the laws of the game.

How many times do we hear a phrase like "he got a bit of the ball" after a plainly illegal tackle has gone in? How often do major figures in the game, men loaded with international caps and all the prestige – and earning power – they bring with them, excuse the appalling grappling that goes on in the penalty area. "It's six of one and half a dozen of the other," is one familiar expression.

This isn't analysis. It is tired betrayal of decent professional values and this has to be the charge against clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool if they remain unmoved by the recent excesses of their star players.

What is needed, of course, is someone with the minimal guts required to stand up for the name of football, to say that its relentless cheapening has reached perilously close to a point of no return.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, who went unchallenged in the matter of his player's stamp on Suarez, said the Liverpool player's antics were "embarrassing". They were indeed, but then, so much of what happens on the field has to be placed in that category.

It is a culture of deception which cries for self-monitoring but in its absence, in the sheer, putrefying failure of the clubs to look at themselves, there needs to be some stringent new directives from an FA which has, when all the smoke has been blown away, been entirely vindicated in its pursuit of John Terry and all his evasions.

They have to make it clear that what Suarez and Bale did warranted more than fleeting mirth and a weary shrug of the shoulders.

They have to say that football cannot go on hurting itself, cannot continue to make a mockery of a game that used be fit to involve the interest of decent, honest people.

What would we think if a child of our own pulled the kind of stunts authored by Bale and Suarez? Wouldn't we say that something fundamental had gone wrong in the upbringing of someone capable of such conduct? It is at least pretty easy to imagine we might just say that we were to blame.

Football now desperately requires a degree of such honesty, because each new outrage piles on it a little more blame.

West Indies are back, but have lessons been learnt?

In the hierarchy of cricket trophies, the World Twenty20 title may not loom so large but if the one just handed out in Sri Lanka is any foretaste of a wider future it can only be recorded with the warmest pleasure.

The West Indian celebrations reminded us quite what the game has been missing for long.

It is the possibly unmatchable happiness which comes when the men of the islands have found enough of their form to remind us, just a little, of the days when they ruled the world.

Now that there are stirrings of some of the old magic, we can only hope that the administration of cricket in the Caribbean has learnt some of the lessons that the last great West Indian cricketer tried so hard to impart.

Brian Lara once spoke unforgettably of the demands made on his generation, the way love of the game, and all that wonderful exuberance, was draining away under the pressure of a relentless, money-grabbing schedule.

When Lara's team-mate Curtly Ambrose, the most formidable of fast bowlers, claimed a wicket, his mother would run into the street ringing a bell.

For too many years the sound of that bell took on a much less uplifting significance. It might have been tolling for the end of something quite brilliant. But then, maybe some of the best of cricket is alive again. It has to be a prayer as much as a hope.

Wood is the real 'Goldenballs'

Someone exposed for the first time to the courage of the cliff divers of Acapulco made the entirely reasonable observation: "You need balls to do something like that."

"Yes, señor," came the swift response, "you need one of silver and one of gold."

This is, hopefully, of some consolation to Warrington Wolves' heroic Paul Wood, who played on in the second half of the Grand Final despite suffering a ruptured testicle, which was later removed in hospital. He reported: "Just coming out the hospital to go home… Seriously feel like I've left something."

The optimistic suspicion here is that it was not the one made of gold.

Credit Di Matteo for trying to give Chelsea a conscience

Roberto Di Matteo some time ago entrenched his position in the history of Chelsea but, if we thought his achievements were astonishing last spring, we now have reason to speculate on the final scale of his legacy.

Words are easy, we know, but there was more than a hint of substance to those he applied to something we might describe as his club's current state of moral anarchy.

He said that the image of Chelsea was important and something towards which he would strive. He said: "I come from Switzerland. I like rules. They are to be respected. We strive to have high standards. Hopefully, going forward we can be better in showing those."

This isn't quite the same as guiding John Terry and Ashley Cole to the door but it may be a start. After all, acting on conscience is one thing, acquiring such a thing is quite another. Di Matteo seems to be saying that the second ambition is quite a good idea.

 

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