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Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

When it comes to my most favorite sport, soccer tops the chart undoubtedly!

It is a sport that can knock your socks off but is also extremely simple for those who strive to understand its depth. I, for one, can watch anyone play as long as there is no compromise on quality.

As a fan, the thing that bothers me the most is when players fake injuries or ‘dive’. While it is not just soccer that follows this phenomenon, it definitely is the culprit.

Diving is an ugly phenomenon, and I am sure most soccer fans will agree with my stance. While players do simulate injuries, this should not stain the image of the sport at large.

Those who have watched a soccer match can vouch for the fact that soccer players tend to get dramatic to get an unfair advantage against their opponents. They exaggerate normal fouls by rolling on the field or calling for help.

There have been so many instances where players have overreacted little to no contact and desperately asking for help only to get up a few seconds later to continue playing.

One such incident recently occurred in the UEFA Euro 2020 where an Italian forward suddenly recovered from what looked like a bad tackle, due to his reaction, when his team scored. Have a look here!

This destroys the spirit of the game! For such reasons, other athletes and fans at large consider soccer players to be weak or soft. However, after all, fake injuries are also a spice that creates an emotional hot pot called soccer.

In this blog, we are diving (pun intended) deep to understand how and why diving and faking injuries is becoming more prevalent.

Why do soccer players fake injuries and act so dramatically?

In the summer of 2021, I watched England vs. Denmark with my family when England ‘nicked’ the victory right in the Extra Time to reach their first final in 55 years. However, the winning goal was controversial as many fans believed an English player Raheem Sterling dived to get a penalty.

If we talk about the England vs. Denmark game again (also mentioned above), it was NEVER a penalty. All pundits and experts claimed it. But Gary Neville explained the situation quite well for both ends of supporters.

Considering how high stakes were – imagine – first MAJOR tournament final in 55 years – emotions were high. This is what Gary Neville further said to explain what he thinks about the penalty incident.

a soccer player is faking his injury

Neville was rooting for his nation to win the tournament. Even though it was a big deal for the Denmark Football Team and their supporters, the English Football Team and fans did not care about the decision.

They celebrated the win!

Like everyone, my father asked me, why are soccer players so dramatic and fake injuries?

To be fair, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Soccer players act dramatically or fake injuries even if there’s a slight contact. Such an act is called Foul Simulation!

Typically, players use this strategy to gain benefits for their team when the referee does not follow the situation closely. With fake simulation being so on point, referees can believe there is a foul and make the call accordingly to award a free kick or penalty to the simulating team.

Let’s be honest about this, diving is not new to this game. For many years and decades, players have taken advantage despite there was no contact (or very little contact) made with another player. Their ultimate goal is to draw calls from the referee.

So, why do they actually do it? How does diving make sense in the game of soccer?

From a fan’s perspective, it simply should not happen. It is a crime to see a soccer player dive to win anything in their favor (unless it wins you the final, LOL).

However, from the player’s perspective, they do it to turn unfavorable positions or results go their way. For instance, diving can ‘help’ them earn freekicks or penalties. If lucky, diving can also get an opposition player carded which can change the scenario of a particular game.

Are diving and theatrics in a soccer game good or bad?

Even though it has become a common issue in modern times with more players doing theatrics rather than playing the beautiful game, it also depends on the situation and the side you are supporting.

In 2004, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney made the headlines for fake simulation and diving which ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run at 49 matches.

Arsenal supporters were furious while United fans cheered to have ended the unbeaten run at Old Trafford.

Fans become aggressive when they see an opponent has won an unfair free kick or penalty due to which the game does not end in their team’s favor. Similarly, they let it pass if such acts turn results to go their way.

Regardless of the motive behind the fake simulation, we can all agree that players attempt diving, simulation, and fake injury to gain a competitive advantage.

You might wonder what if a certain action does not give any apparent advantage? Should we call it cheating?

And I would somewhat agree – the nature of the act is devious to some extent, but then again, it must be backed by some form of reasoning.

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

Let’s discuss the reasons why a player might dive or fake an injury during a soccer game:

1. Gain the Referee’s Attention 

The most basic reason for fake simulation and diving is to get the referee’s attention. The goal is to get decisions to go their team’s way no matter what.

Referee decides how the soccer game must be played in terms of leniency and feasibility. Some referees stop the play or caution players on slightest of touches whereas others let it go as long as nothing serious happens.

With diving or faking an injury on a challenge which made no contact, the player seeks to convince the referee that something bad happened to gain a competitive advantage.

It does not matter whether it is fair or unfair, they will go down showing they got seriously injured. However, the referee has to make the call if the game should continue or not.

They are the decision makers and have to decide the fate of the game under high pressure in split seconds. Whenever a player goes down, the referee’s responsibility is to look and decide at that moment if the game should stop due to injury or carry on because it was theatrics.

No matter the final decision, every player is aware they have to get up and continue playing if the referee decides to continue the game.

2. Reprimanding Another Player

Wouldn’t you be happy if a top player of the opposition team is cautioned or sent off? Despite it destroys the spirit of the game and ‘might’ be unethical, playing against 10 players in a soccer match is ideal for almost every team.

This is one of the reasons why soccer players fake injuries and act so dramatically. Everyone knows it is unfair, but the competitive advantage a team gains out of this act weighs more!

In high pressure and crucial games, players like to be on the toes of opposition players who are most threatening. For instance, the Brazilian Neymar. Whether it is a nation or club tournament, the opposition will always try to man-mark Neymar.

Keeping in mind the type of player he is, Neymar will try all means to take advantage of the slightest contact made by the opposition player with the aim of getting the player punished.

Over the years, there have been so many instances where a cautioned player is sent off due to fake simulation.

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

3. Time Wasting Strategy

Isn’t this the dirtiest play in the entire game? Time stops for no one – and in this sport, the clock never stops no matter the situation. Unless you are playing indoor soccer (more on this below)!

When the match is nearing the end, teams tend to waste time to get a result in their favor. Whether they are maintaining a narrow lead or have just managed to not concede against top opposition, wasting time helps them get the job done.

Even though it is not ‘as’ beneficial as it may seem, players and teams still do it. Why?

Because, the referee keeps notice of the stoppages and delays due to any reason and adds it to the ‘Added Time’ play once the normal game duration is completed.

On the contrary, if you are playing or watching indoor soccer – the clock is continuous except:

  • When the playing ball is not in the field
  • When a player gets substituted
  • When a player gets injured (or acts like it!)

No matter the type of soccer game you are playing or watching, faking injuries and diving reduces the excitement of the game and opponent. It also allows the other team to regroup and re-gather themselves if things are not going their way.

All in all, it certainly helps them break the momentum or tempo of the game with their actions.

4. Create A Potential Goal-Scoring Opportunity

Who wouldn’t love that? Have you heard of the saying, “everything is fair in love, war, and a game of soccer?”

Well, you have now!

One of the reasons why a player or team would think of faking an injury or simulation is to create a potential goal-scoring opportunity.

Not every time when you are near the opposition’s goal would you get a chance to actually score a goal.

When you are surrounded by defenders with no proper chance of passing the ball to another teammate, players think it’s better to get their diving shorts on.

What’s a better opportunity to score a goal than a penalty or freekick?

It looks realistic as there’s pressure on the defenders to make a tackle or get the ball before a player has an attempt to strike towards goal.

Therefore, going down in such situations would only make the referee believe that there was an impact. As a result, the ‘injured’ player is awarded a set piece while the opposition player is ‘warned’ or ‘cautioned’.

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

5. Regain Possession Of The Ball

Imagine losing possession of the ball in your own half which might lead to the opponent’s goal-scoring opportunity?

Perfect time to fake an injury, right?

This mostly happens in high-pressing games where opposition is giving the other team no space to move the ball around comfortably.

So, whenever they are tackled (fairly, by all means) – they would rather act to go down and raise their hands to get the referee’s attention than admit they lost the ball.

If the theatrics are on point, the referee can consider pausing the game and award a free kick to the ‘injured’ player.

This is very unsportsmanlike and unfair, but it often happens so the opposition team does not score on this fumble. Also, sometimes this shows the mischief of the player.

6. Impact on the opponent’s psychology as well as the match tempo

If you have heard of tactical fouls, you would understand what we are going to discuss here!

Typically, a team goes for a tactical foul to stop an attack that could be a potential goal-scoring opportunity. This impacts the psychology and the match tempo for the attacking team.

Similarly, diving and fake injuries impact an opponent’s psychology and match tempo in several ways.

Over the years, we have seen players going on the ground asking for help on challenges where there wasn’t a slight contact with the opponent.

Seeing players holding their supposedly ‘injured’ leg might impact their psychology. Furthermore, diving and fake simulation also result in game stoppages which affect the match tempo.

A team trying to move faster on a counterattack will not be happy to see an opponent rolling on the floor ‘crying’ to attract the referee’s attention.

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

Other question

Why do soccer players overreact?

Let’s just say, this varies as per the situation of the game.

Certain players who are known for cheap tactics such as Neymar would definitely overreact regardless of the situation. However, the unknown names who you might think would never do such unfair acts can also follow the same if it means winning a game for their team.

Players overreact because they want the referee to believe they have been wronged in some way. As a result, they are awarded a set piece or an opposition’s player is cautioned or sent off.

Regardless, the reaction comes out of desperation so that they get the referee’s attention and decision in their favor.

In modern times, the chances a referee may fall for the fake simulation and dives have become lesser. And, with the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR), they always have the option to get a ‘second eye’ on a certain instance before finalizing their decision.

Furthermore, it is not always that a player may overreact. Sometimes there could be a serious injury that may seem nothing or normal from another person’s view.

Do female soccer players fake injuries?

Dive, fake injuries, or simulation is not gender-centric. The game of soccer is played to win. So, no matter if there is a male or female soccer player, they would do anything to win the game for their team.

Hence, female soccer players can also fake injuries to fulfill any of the above-mentioned reasons as per the scenario of the game.

Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries And Act So Dramatically?

Memorable fake injury situations in soccer

Whether you like it or despise it, simulation is an integral part of the game. In a game where players are advised by referees that they need to make clear fouls, soccer is thus all about theatrics.

Here is a small effort to document the worst, best, and most ridiculous dives and fake injuries encountered on a soccer field.

David Luiz vs. Manchester United

Smile through the pain!

Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United back in 2013 saw United’s defender Rafael get sent off in the closing minutes.

To waste time, Luiz defended the ball well with his body which frustrated the United defender. However, it was a foul – the theatrics of Luiz further aggravated the tackle. Just seconds later he was caught smiling on camera.

Chelsea's David Luiz smiles while Rafael gets sent off! Chelsea vs Man Utd 05/05/13

David Luiz later claimed it was the reaction to United supporters who were calling him ‘Sideshow Bob’.

Neymar vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Ney-Ney is a popular name when it comes to diving and faking injuries. He is slim, pacey, and loves dribbling which further makes the actions look more realistic at times.

Here is one of his performances when he was playing for Barcelona against his current club. Neymar later joined the French club for $263 million which PSG paid in full.

This Neymar dive against PSG in the Champions League was not pretty | @TheBuzzer | FOX SOCCER

Dele Alli

Maybe a forgotten name of a player who once was considered as one of the best young English players when he debuted for Tottenham in 2015.

But, he got fame for all the wrong reasons as time passed on. Have a look yourself!

Can't Stop The Diving | Dele Alli dive song [Jim Daly]


Before you make any judgment calls, understand the fact that watching and playing football are actually two different things.

Considering I have been playing football since I was 7 years old (currently 26), there are times when you are running at a full pace and the slightest touch can put you off balance and make you fall on the ground.

From my experience, things change when you step on the field. A small kick on your shin can be hurtful for days and weeks. However, others will categorize it as faking an injury.

We hope this post will help you understand why soccer players fake injuries and act so dramatically.