Diving: Time to eradicate the bane of soccer’s existence

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Despite the barrage of mainstream media articles in the United States (and abroad) that soccer has, indeed, “arrived in America” there remains a hangnail that, if staying power is a legitimate concern, is desperate for clipping: Diving.

Racial abuse aside (more on this below), diving is arguably the worst on-the-pitch problem in the game today. It fools referees, ruins matches and wrongly influences the youth while infuriating players, managers and fans. Which is exactly why the game’s governing organizations need to take an immediate stance and eradicate the cancer from our very existence.

Recently FIFA vice-president, Jim Boyce, posited the theory that players who dive should be sent off rather than shown a yellow card. “I think cheating has to be eradicated from the game,” Boyce told BBC World’s ‘Have Your Say’. “If it is absolutely no question whatsoever that it is a dive, I think perhaps Fifa have to look at whether that should be a red-card offense.”

Key to Boyce’s point, however, is that the offense should be handled by the referee at the time of the incident and not through video technology. “I believe that we don’t want to ruin our game by bringing in a lot more technology,” he said.

While Boyce’s recognition of the problem is admirable, the rationale behind not using video technology is a glowing example of FIFA’s debilitating failure to modernize, not to mention that it’s just plain incorrect.

“More technology” is not needed because all the cameras are already in place. And so too are the rules that allow referees to retrospectively review “serious breaches of the principle of fair play” so long as they’ve been missed by referees. Incidents of players engaging in punching, spitting, head-butting, verbal insults and racist slurs have all been the subject of retrospective suspensions for guilty players.

So why not diving? Has this despicable act not yet risen to the level of a verbal insult?

The solution is one that would go miles to turning might-be fans who pop up every four years for the World Cup into regular supporters of the beautiful game: Establish a fair play panel within FIFA and all league governing organizations across the globe. The panel’s duty would be to review, either by complaint or sua sponte, on-pitch actions that violate “serious breaches of the principle of fair play” including, in some instances, those seen by the referee.

This last component is key. Governing bodies have long reserved reviewing video for moments that the referee doesn’t see on the pitch but when it comes to serious fair play breaches that unequivocally damage the game, the time has come to carve out an exception to the rule.

And the punishment?

A one match suspension every time a player conclusively goes to ground without being touched and for the purpose of gaining an advantage.

It’s a simple adjustment that could prove momentous for the players, the fans (and would-be fans) and the game.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.