Dante's Sporting Inferno
The request by the FA of FIFA to introduce laws to retrospectively punish divers is in keeping with the recent stiffening in resolve of the football authorities to tackle the problem. UEFA and FIFA themselves have also spoken out about it of late. If any measures are to be successful, then the simulator needs to become the game's most reviled character.
Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy and Fiorentina fan, would have placed them well along his nine circles of sporting hell, which might have looked a little like this:
First Circle: GAA brawlers, soccer defenders who brazenly grapple opposing strikers, rugby forwards who grab opponents testicles in scrums - None of them get punished in the real world, so in theory they're doing nothing wrong; but still, down with that sort of thing.
Second Circle: Glory hunting soccer fans, corporate junkees at rugby matches, school team coaches who use underage teams as vehicles for self-glorification - All people who, despite being on the outside of sport, abuse the spirit of it on the name of avarice and vainglory. Boo!
Third Circle: Reserved for this guy: "The most infamous [fencing] scandal of all was in the 1976 Olympic pentathlon, when one of the world's best pentathletes, the Russian Boris Onishenko, was discovered by Jim Fox, the British team captain, to have rewired his sword
to produce a contact, and thus a hit, at will. The British team won the gold medal; the disqualified and re-christened DisOnishenko disappeared back to Russia and was found drowned in a swimming pool some years later". Cad!
Fourth Circle: Psychotic tennis fathers - Unlike the victims of the overzealous school coaches in the second circle, the likes of Jelena Dokic don't escape their insane progenitors so easily. Dokic's career has been probably irreversibly hampered by her overbearing father's crackpot behaviour. Her former coach, he has been banned from all the grand slam tournaments at one time or another and is infamous for his offensive outbursts. How about this for supportive parenting: "Other coaches, when she loses, say, 'Take your time. There is always next year.' I say, 'No, you don't have time. You must go faster, harder. If you stop, it's over." Also blamed her recent return to Australia on a conspiracy between that country, Croatia and the Vatican...
Fifth Circle: Divers, and players who try to get opponents yellow-carded or sent-off - Football is currently finding itself shouting "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" in the direction of the cheats and vagabonds who are destroying the game through base artifice and gamesmanship. Previously happy in its ivory tower, believing the problem to be - like bird flu - a foreign affliction, British football is now ravaged with playacting and general skullduggery.
Sixth Circle: Eye Gougers - I'm sorry, I just can't get my head around this. Some rugby players actually look to gain advantage by sticking their fingers into an opponent's eye-socket like their head was a bowling ball? I mean come on, this is the 21st century - the Spanish Inquistion would have baulked at such thuggery!
Seventh Circle:Don King - The Don has been sued by everyone from Muhammad Ali to Lloyd's of London, was questioned by the Senate in 1992 on his connections with mafia boss John Gotti, shot and killed a man in 1954, was convicted of stamping to death an employee who owed him $600 in 1966, and is responsible for putting countless past-it pugs into the ring with no regard to any danger to the fighters. Probably solely responsible for giving boxing a bad name. But fair dues, he did organise "The Rumble in the Jungle".
Eighth Circle: Match fixers - Betraying yourself, your team, your coaches, your supporters, your country even. Few cried when Hansie Cronje crashed into a mountain. John Fashanu was acquitted of match fixing allegations but still went from presenting 'Gladiators' with Ulrika Jonsson to a late night slot on Bravo.
Ninth Circle:Drug cheats - sport's traditional pantomime villains, whether in the form of hairy East German female shot-putters, pupil-dilatingly muscular Canadian sprinters, or suddenly - and suspiciously - world-class Irish swimmers, the chemically enhanced are universally despised. Their guilt is doubly reinforced by the fact that none ever admit their crimes. Cold remedy my ass!