I get it; you were as frustrated as I was when “Neymar Jr. made a big fuss out of fouls made on him in an official World Cup 2018 match.”
A player of such a high caliber pretending to be hurt would make every sane soccer fan think, “Why do soccer players fake injuries?”
To sum it up, “Soccer players deliberately fake injuries to get an advantage in the form of getting a penalty kick, a Freekick, or even causing frustration to the opponent team players.’
But, it’s a bit more complicated than that. To be honest, there are many ways to gain an advantage by exaggerating injuries in soccer and a few different reasons why they might do it in a game.
As an avid soccer fan, I did a deep dive to figure out why even players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi might fake injuries during a soccer game (see also ‘The Origins Of Soccer (Must-Read!)‘).
Let’s dive into my findings below!
Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries? Logical Answer
Soccer players might fake injuries for many different reasons. Some include “Pushing the referee to punish the player who has fouled them, getting a penalty kick or a Freekick, regaining the possession, for wasting time, and to get quick rest.”
Before explaining each reason, you first need to get comfortable with some of the terminologies used in soccer for faking injuries.
Terminologies Used in Soccer for Faking Injuries
Flopping is used in soccer when a player deliberately falls or stumps on the pitch or field to benefit the player and their team by buying them time.
We all know what diving is! Soccer fans often blame Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. and call them “Professional Divers.” It’s one of the more common moves for players to do.
Simulating a foul
Simulation is a term collectively used for faking injuries on the field/pitch. Simulating a foul means making a bigger deal out of the situation than it is in reality.
Lastly, faking an injury in a game is the most common term used when people dive or flop in soccer. When someone tries to tackle a player, they may fall on purpose in hopes that it gets the referee to punish the opposing team.
With all being clear, let’s move on to the most important section, i.e. why do soccer players fake injuries.
Also Read: Best Turf Soccer Shoes 2022
Simulating Fouls in Soccer and Its Benefits
It’s frustrating for passionate soccer fans to watch a player (especially one from the rival’s team) simulate a foul.
If you watch soccer games passionately like me, you’d see that the frustration is not limited to fans watching the game on TV only.
However, faking an injury has many benefits, and that’s the main reason you’ll see famous players like Luis Suarez, Neymar Jr., Cristiano Ronaldo, and Dani Alves deliberately trying to take advantage when someone fouls them.
Some of the benefits of simulating a foul include:
1. To Regain Possession
Let’s be honest here! Long spells of possession can frustrate the hell outta the opponent team.
Teams like Barcelona and Manchester City are fond of playing the “Tiki-Taka” version of soccer, which simply means keeping possession until a goal is scored.
To break those long of possession, players may simulate a foul. When given a foul, not only is possession regained but the opponent’s players may also get punished for it.
This tactic is frequently applied by teams who want to break the spirit of the opposing team that’s dominating the possession during the game.
2. Yellow/Red Card Punishment to Opponent’s Player
Well, this may sound absurd, but most of the time, faking an injury can result in convincing the referee to give a Yellow or even a Red Card to the opponent’s player.
Being a Real Madrid fan, I will recall the infamous Spanish Super Cup Final of Real Madrid against Barcelona in 2017.
Though Real Madrid won the match in the end, in the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo was given a warning, i.e. a Yellow Card unjustly.
Followed by the Yellow Card, he was sent off during the match again just because the player he fouled made a big fuss out of it.
Soccer, ladies and gentlemen, is a cruel game! These decisions can shatter team supporters’ hearts in a minute.
3. Awarding Penalty Kick
They do it to convince the referee to award them the penalty kick. When that happens, the team may have a chance to get an advantage over the opposition with an easy penalty kick goal.
An extra goal is a pretty good reason why soccer players might fake injuries during games.
4. Freekick Opportunity
When you have professional free-kick takers like Lionel Messi, David Alaba, Sergio Ramos, or Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the team will try its best to get a free-kick opportunity.
Two types of freekicks may be awarded to the team in that case:
- Direct Freekick: The distance between the goalpost and the Freekick area is small, so the player may try for a direct Freekick resulting in a goal.
- Indirect Freekick: The distance is longer, so midfielders such as Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, or Kevin De Bruyne could take these kicks to set up the players in the penalty box resulting in a goal.
5. Referees Won’t Give Foul Until a Player Scream
This may sound a bit biased, but if you have played soccer on a professional level, or watched enough of the sport, you’d simply know that unless you scream your heart out and cry in pain, the referee will merely ignore whether you’ve been fouled.
So, to make sure that the ref actually gets convinced of the foul, players may fake their injuries, roll down on the ground, scream, shout, or do every sort of drama to get the referee’s attention.
6. Time Wasting
Wasting time (see also ‘How Long Is A Soccer Game?‘) is another important tactic applied by the teams who are winning the game.
In tight matches such as the UEFA Champions League Final, or El Clasico, no team would want to give away the advantage they have over the opposition.
When the timer hits the 80-minute mark, players may start faking injuries to waste time.
Although extra time is allowed after the 90 minutes mark, it is never accurate, giving an edge to the team who tries to waste time when they are winning the game.
7. Frustrating Opponent Team Players
Let me be clear, “Fans sitting in the stadium or watching a game on TV get frustrated when a player fakes an injury. Imagine the agony and frustration of the team facing such a scenario! It would be absolute chaos!”
8. A Tackle May Hurt After 20 Seconds
This is important too! Soccer is a challenging game; due to frequent running, a player may not immediately feel the impact of a foul.
After some time, their feet, legs, or calves may start hurting. Players usually fake an injury just to be on the safe side.
9. To Get Quick Rest
Getting a little rest is also a reason for faking an injury. In many cases, the players may go out of the field for a while and return after taking a moment to catch their breath
This was done more when only three substitutions were allowed at the club and country levels.
With the new rules allowing 5 substitutions to be used in soccer matches, there’s less reasons to fake an injury, but players still do it clearly.
10. Giving Benefit of Doubt
When a player screams and shouts, the ref gives him the benefit of the doubt just in case the injury is actually serious.
Therefore, to be more lenient, one has to fake injuries to make sure that a decision is given in their favor when they gets fouled.
The Unethical/Unfair Side of Faking Injuries
I’m not really sure one can call it unethical, considering that even a minute injury in soccer can result in a disaster for the player, its unfair, but part of the game.
Punishment for faking injuries may result in a warning, i.e. a Yellow Card and sometimes even a red card.
Even with these ramifications, players regularly fake injuries on the field just to get benefits and an advantage over the opponents. FIFA and other regulatory authorities allow it to a certain extent because they don’t want any player to get a serious injury, and you never know whats real or not.
VAR and Its Impact
After its implementation on March 13, 2018, the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) is now capable of reversing a referee’s decisions.
For instance, if a player gets a Red Card for a foul he did not commit, the VAR will communicate with the ref and ask him to reverse his decision.
Thus, VAR can prevent this fake injury thing by players, but the reality is a bit twisted.
In reality, VAR is only used to make decisions on the offside rule or when there is a chance of getting a penalty kick.
It’s rarely been used to assess the fake injury scenario as the refs make these decisions.
All in all, as we progress more with technology, a time will come when VAR can prevent players from getting unjust warnings in soccer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are soccer players so dramatic about injuries?
Some of the probable reasons for this drama about injuries include:
Regaining possession when they need it badly
Convincing the referee to give the decision their favor
Convincing the ref to punish the opponent.
Getting a penalty kick.
To get some rest during the game.
To be on the safe side to avoid a potential injury.
Why are soccer players so weak?
Soccer players are not weak they are one of the toughest players. People assume that just because they fake injuries, they are weak. However, that’s not the case at all.
Can a soccer player get punished for faking an injury?
A soccer player can easily get punished for faking an injury and taking a dive. Especially in the opposition’s box. This can result in a direct Yellow Card from the referee. If a player tries to fake an injury again, another Yellow Card is shown to them, which means he has been sent off from the game.
Given all the reasons why do soccer players fake injuries, I hope that this article gave you a little bit more clarity as to why it happens so often in soccer.
Out of all the reasons I covered, a player may also fake an injury because he wants to avoid an injury after returning from a long break.
This happened with Neymar Jr. in 2018 as he was back on the field after suffering a long injury. So, to keep himself safe from aggressive tackles, he overexaggerated a bit when he thought it was neccesary.
Though it wasnt a ton of fun to watch, the Brazilian star did all he could to get as much attention as possible during World Cup 2018 matches.