It started during Arsenal’s match against Celtic in the preliminary round of the Champions League two weeks ago. Playing at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal striker Eduardo broke free from the defense and ran onto a ball played into the penalty area. Artur Boruc dove out to meet him. Eduardo went tumbling. And the referee awarded a penalty kick.
But a look at the instant replay showed that it was not quite so simple. Boruc never appeared to make actual contact with Eduardo — nor did he make contact with the ball. Still, Eduardo seemed to drag his feet and go over rather easily. By popular estimation, it was (gasp) a dive.
Well, ladies and gentlemen of UEFA, it happens. It happens in every match and it happens several times a match. Shockingly, this is not the first time someone has deliberately conned a referee. And it wasn’t even the most egregious dive perpetrated against Celtic — Gilardino would have that title.
But the decision sets a dangerous precedent, as Arsene Wenger insisted in his appeal, because it seriously undermines the authority of the referee within the context of the match. The question is, where does it stop now? The solution, funnily enough, is one that Wenger has championed for years: find a framework to subtly and parsimoniously include instant replays.
UEFA, however, is convinced otherwise.