The life and dives of Gareth Frank Bale
The one good thing to come in the aftermath of Gareth Bale’s embarrassing dive is that Tottenham supporters are pretty much one voice of disapproval for such dramatics. It’s not in our nature to witness/welcome/accept our players cheating. Other teams might have made it part and parcel of their ‘winning’ mentality but it’s something that retains discomfort when a player in Lilywhite is guilty of it. I remember Zokora play acting a fair bit when he was with us. I remember the lack of applause for his ‘performances’. Leave it to the continent and some of our supposedly more classy neighbours.
If you wanted to entertain any form of defence for Bale you could cite the rather obvious concern he has with being clattered in a challenge. It plays on his mind. It plays on his mind so much that he’s consciously thinking too much about that potentiality when he’s running with the ball.
I can almost understand and accept when he's physically brought down and remains grounded. Although there’s an element of strength to be displayed by simply dusting yourself off and standing up as if nothing has happened, these are not the 1960s when players played on with broken bones. The modern footballer is far more self conscious, especially one that has been hacked and injured in the past. The last thing any player wants is to be sidelined. So somewhere in amongst all this, Bale has confused matters by attempting to control that potentiality of being clattered by avoiding it altogether. When he’s fouled, he makes a point of it to perhaps influence the referee he’s being targeted (which is fair enough) and to make sure he's okay but when he’s not fouled he has a habit of tumbling over far too easily to win the free kick. Being 'touched' by the boot or leg of an opposing player doesn't constitute the easy surrender to gravity that prevails.
Much like the way he remains grounded, some might defend his insistence of falling down easily when challenged as a further form of protection. But the fact he entertains this school of thought means that soon enough the ambiguity will cloud his judgement and any chance of any Tottenham supporter attempting to rationalise his behaviour will evaporate. If you're challenged and you don't lose balance then there's no reason to take a tumble.
You go from protecting yourself by simply exaggerating to then second guessing what will happen and falsifying the outcome. The dive Bale was guilty of against Aston Villa was ridiculous and the perfect illustration of this. The keeper was nowhere near making contact. Bale, reacting to what might have happened had contact been made moves his leg to avoid impact then drops to mimic what would have happened had contact been made. Was it instinctive? Was this an example of that ambiguity clouding his judgement? No and no.
It all leads back to Bale always thinking about it. He’s constantly pre-occupied with that potentiality, so much so he's now using it as an excuse rather than the reason. There’s little chance he dived to protect himself in this instance. It was far too choreographed, much like any given dive on a football pitch. It was inexcusable and it was premeditated. He might not have set out to cheat for the sake of cheating but is there really any difference? If you simulate then you're in the wrong by default. If you do so in the penalty area then you're a methodical cheat and if you do so to get someone sent off you're just as pathetic. If you're doing it outside the penalty area then you're just being stupid.
Inside Gareth's head, he probably started out thinking this every single time: He might whack me, he might injury me, I'll glide it out, I'll jerk my leg and minimise impact and injury. Whereas now, it's simply the easy safe option to take every single time.
In his head, it probably doesn't sound daft. We'll argue it isn't pleasant viewing and it's embrassing, he'll argue that having his ankle snapped isn't too pleasant for him. That's probably his rationalisation, that was the reason but as cited already, it's now his excuse.
The one positive to take from it is that he never cried out for a free kick, he didn't roll around. He might have done so had a little contact been made. Had that happened we might not be discussing a diving incident now. Instead we might be asking why he didn't fly past the keeper and aim for the net instead of being easily clattered. If you're going to cheat you may as well see it out until the end. He knew exactly what he did and hopefully when he watches it back he'll have a word with himself. Or he'll just get better at cheating. We'll have to wait and see.
If he truly remains so scared of being injured from a challenge and it is the reason for his behaviour, rather than disguise it by limiting impact and diving (to avoid injury), how about just jumping out of the way. Not so dignified but more so than falling to the ground in pretence.
Bale has to man up. He has to stop thinking about what opposition players might do to him and start doing to the opposition what they fear he can.