Some Soccer Players 'Oscar Contenders,' Delaney Says
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Any great athletic event contains some of the basic elements of drama, like conflict and character. But international soccer has often showcased a lot of theatrical skills displayed by players who are eager to convince officials that they've been fouled, often in the most dastardly way. We've invited our friend Frank Delaney to help us understand.
Frank is a novelist, BBC presenter, screenwriter, star of his own one-man James Joyce stage show, "Re-Joyce!" He's also a lifelong soccer fan and has written about the World Cup.
Frank(ph) so much for being with us.
Mr. FRANK DELANEY (Author): A pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: So in international soccer, as we call it, a whole lot of acting going on?
Mr. DELANEY: Do you know what it's called, Scott? It's called diving. The player goes down when he is being tackled, even though he hasn't been touched. A foul is given if a player is struck by another player, usually with the stubs of his boot, without the opposing player - the tackling player - connecting with the ball.
All of these men who do this diving, they are Oscar contenders. They are some of the best actors. They can look so devastated, so hurt, so injured, you think they will never walk again.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DELANEY: The free kick is given, and suddenly they're walking up and down quite normally and actually smiling.
Now, what happens can actually be identified and stratified by nationality. And watch out for this. If it's an Italian player, he will roll over three or four times.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DELANEY: The Russians, for example, they will go down with a thud and lay there spread-eagled, looking to the sky. The French will look with innocent anguish at the referee.
The English are more sturdy about it. They sit there and swear. And the camera had better not be on their mouth for all the lip readers who are watching the game.
SIMON: Can't you also get a card for faking an injury?
Mr. DELANEY: You can. And some referees are very good at this. It's not in my view widespread enough, because really great professional players don't do it. Some do. Ronaldo of Portugal, the boy wonder of the entire tournament, this beautiful boy who plays on the right wing for Portugal - he used to play for the team I have followed since I was eight years old - Manchester United - he's pretty adept at doing it.
But when he was with Manchester United, the famous manager there, Alex Ferguson, doesn't like diving, even among his own players. And when somebody else does it, he is seen on the touchline running up and down, you know, complaining vociferously with the referee. So he discourages it.
SIMON: I have a list here, courtesy of the Observer Sports Monthly, about the 10 best football dives. Let me see, this would be Diego Simeone, Argentina versus England at the World Cup of 1998.
Mr. DELANEY: That's a famous dive.
SIMON: David Beckham was involved, right?
Mr. DELANEY: David Beckham was involved. But Argentina is one of the countries most notorious for diving. It seems to be something that has infected the southern continent of America - shall we put it that way.
SIMON: Well, they - and there's a large - I hate to cater to cheap stereotypes, but there's a large Italian contingent in Argentina, isn't there?
Mr. DELANEY: Absolutely. I mean, we're going to get into trouble with all the Italian-born listeners and all the Italian generations in America because of these comments. But in actual fact, in my view, I believe the Italians invented it. And why wouldn't they?
You know this wonderful ending of the opera "Tosca" when she jumps off the battlements, and you know the old apocryphal theatrical story that a mean-spirited technical crew put a trampoline there (unintelligible) she kept appearing over the battlements when she jumped off.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DELANEY: Well, that's the same tendency you see on the pitch, Scott, when they're rolling over and over and over. One roll would be enough, would it not?
SIMON: Frank, thanks so much for explaining things to us.
Mr. DELANEY: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: Frank Delaney, speaking with us from Tipperary, Ireland. By the way, his most recent novel is "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show."
(Soundbite of music)
SIMON: Get the trampoline ready, kids. You can read more about World Cup and show me your cleats at npr.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
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