Despite mutterings from FIFA and the FA in recent years, cheating continues to be a growing cancer on the modern game of football.
Yes we see the odd booking for ‘simulation’, but in every single game these days, particularly in the Premier League, we still see players producing Oscar-winning standard play-acting in a bid to get their team an advantage.
I am sure there were things that went on in the past where wily old players gained an advantage, but they were never so animated or embarrassing until the mass influx of foreign players into the top flight.
Yes they brought some breathtaking skills into our game. But at what price for its integrity?
Of course we’d seen the foreign players rolling around like idiots when watching international games and, in truth, found it quite amusing that fully grown men could writhe around in apparent agony for such a slight touch.
Thankfully Ryan Sweeney’s red card at Exeter last weekend was late in the game and probably had little bearing on the 1-0 defeat.
But it’s hard enough to play away to the leaders when your side is yet to find consistency and, had that red card happened earlier, it could have caused serious problems and piled pressure on rookie boss John Dempster.
Thankfully the FA overturned the card yesterday and Sweeney is now free to carry on playing.
But what of Ryan Bowman? Where is the punishment for him now?
The 6ft 2ins striker is hardly a helpless stick-like winger. Yet he went down and kicked his legs like he had had been shot.
The footage shows Bowman is also leaning on Sweeney as they tussle and clearly gives the Stags man a two-handed shove before Sweeney retaliates – so technically the free kick was to Mansfield first by the letter of the law.
Bowman then bleated: “We were having a little bit of argy-bargy and pushing and all that and then he caught me with the elbow right in the midriff. It was one of those that I wasn’t expecting it and takes the wind out of you.
“I didn’t realise he got sent off until I got up. But you cannot give the referee a chance to send you off. He has done it and hit me with the elbow, so there should be no complaints about it.”
When I was growing up the game was very, very different.
When you were hurt – and I mean hurt – the biggest thing was to try to show no sign of it having hurt you even when you wanted to cry in pain.
Whether it was a bad tackle or a ball in the face or somewhere worse you tried to show no weakness as best you could and gritted your teeth.
In those days if you were hurting on the floor and showed the pain, someone calling you ‘ a girl’ was a derogatory term and suggested you were weak.
That term could hardly be applied these days. Watching the Women’s World Cup, you saw some crunching challenges, but they got on with it like we used to do in this country – and good on them.
Take a look at Rugby League or Rugby Union, as well as ice hockey.
These guys thunder into each other and take challenges that would have modern day footballers in genuine tears. But they just get on with it.
When one of those guys stays down they are actually hurt.
There is nothing more sickening to me on a Saturday afternoon than to see a player scream, roll around and then jump to his feet and carry on unscathed, sometimes with a grin on his face.
To me that should be a card every time. That is trying to get an opponent in trouble.
That’s no different to waving pretend cards in a referee’s face.
It was good to hear Stags boss John Dempster this week say: “It’s not for me – faking injury like that and rolling around on the floor. For me it’s embarrassing.”
I hope his players absorb that thought and put that into play.
If someone takes your legs you will go down. That should be enough for any referee worth his salt to give the free kick. The histrionics are unnecessary.
Will the sin-bins play any part on this in the future at the top level? That remains to be seen.
But the wages paid these days and the mass exposure of top level football, these players have to realise they have a responsibility not to teach cheating to a new generation of youngsters who will replicate that on the parks from a young age.