I
have no idea if this came across on the TV coverage but the mood in the dying
minutes of the final, after Zidane was sent off, was absolutely surreal. There
was whistling and jeering from the crowd throughout and, even though there were
more Italians in the crowd than French or other fans, it was a poisonous
atmosphere.

The
Zidane red card left everybody stunned and it was made stranger by the fact
that the referee didn’t actually see the head butt. I don’t know how he could
send somebody off, with a straight red card, for something he didn’t see. The
crowd wasn’t happy.

For
me, it was symbolic that the final kick of the tournament was taken by none
other than Fabio Grosso, responsible for one of the great frauds of the
tournament – when he dived against Australia.

You
might think this is just sour grapes but trust me, it’s not. Having watched
many games at this World Cup and observed the players and the fans closely, I
am convinced that diving, exaggerating contact and faking injuries – let’s just
call it “cheating” – is the biggest problem facing the world game today.

There
are many great things to have come out of this World Cup, for the game, for
Germany and for Australia – and I will write about those in the next couple of
days – but diving is a genuine concern.

You
could tell that the crowds, and even the players, are increasingly frustrated
by it. Every time a player hits the deck now, there is widespread jeering,
catcalls and whistling, as though we’re all in on the joke. Even the players
have become wary about putting the ball out of play, as is traditional when a
member of the opposition needs treatment, because they are clearly suspicious
that the prone player is faking it and merely trying to slow the game down.

I
think this issue has major ramifications for the game and nowhere more so than
Australia, where fans only just discovering the game will be less sympathetic
to the issue within the wider context of the sport than, say, Italy or Spain.
Such over-exaggeration and faking is against the Australian sporting
sensibilities and is a worry for those trying to convince the Australian public
about this spectacle.

Peter Fray

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