Why Do Soccer Players Fake Injuries? Is this Bad for Soccer?

why soccer players fake injuries

It is really common while watching a soccer game to notice at least a player who seems like he is faking being injured …

… Indeed, once the referee give a yellow card to the opponent, the “so-called” injured player comes back to his feet like nothing has happened!

Weird, right?!

So, why do soccer players fake injuries?

The number one reason players fake injuries, also known as flopping or foul simulation, is to sway referee decisions towards a foul.

Why would a player want to roll around on the ground putting on a giant show in hopes of getting another player a card?

For better position in the game or to get the upper hand. Take for example a midfielder that is making it difficult to get the ball pass them. A few yellow cards could remove them from the field. Or, a single red card could be a faster option.

How ethical this might be is up for debate. While technically this is not part of play, flopping is something that is only considered wrong if caught doing it.

Unfortunately, soccer has become plagued with flopping. Some players more infamous than others practice the art of flopping.

Considering a successful fake injury can dramatically change the outcome of a match, it is easy to see why a player may choose to flop.

Another important reasons in my opinion, is that since soccer is fairly a contact sport, some players prefer to fake injuries to minimize the physical engagement to reduce the probabily of getting injured in first place.

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More reasons …

There are three other reasons why faking an injury happens in soccer.

1. Needing a break

The time it takes to review a foul gives players on the field a much needed rest!

Running up and down a field leads to fatigue, and a couple of minutes to catch your breath can significantly help with quick recovery.

2. Breaking momentum

One tactic often used is faking an injury in order to disrupt a team’s momentum. Once a team builds momentum and seems unstoppable it can be difficult to slow them down.

A foul can disrupt this momentum giving the other team a chance to change the course of the match.

In some instances this can backfire, but either way the sudden break gives both teams a chance to stop and regroup.

It is worth mentioning that because of that, many people consider Soccer as a boring sport!

3. Getting inside a player’s head

A successful flop that results in another player receiving a yellow card will change the way that player performs on the field. They will be more likely to be hesitant before performing any type of action in fear of another card.

Although they may not be permanently removed from the field, at the least they are held back slightly and less likely to be aggressive. It’s a sneaky gray area tactic for taking out a strong player.

Players known for faking injuries

1. Neymar

The Brazilian superstar is notorious for flopping. And in the 2018 World Cup Neymar cemented himself as one of the top floppers. His over exaggerated displays of excruciating pain put a stain on the sport.

Him taking a fall for the greater good is the type of sacrifice not all players possess the ability to do. Unfortunately, this type of sportsmanship leads to fans and non-fans labeling soccer players as “soft.”

2. Dani Alves

Real Madrid’s Dani Alves is another player known for taking a dive. One instance of his ability to persuade a ref was back in 2011.

Dani took it upon himself to go over the top with his exaggerated pain. Rather than letting the ref come to his own conclusion, Dani saw fit to push his injury even further than most would take it.

It led to a red card, even though replays showing no contact was made whatsoever to Dani.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

It may be difficult to believe that such a talented player such as Ronaldo would be considered one the most famous floppers. The reason he is considered a major diver is because everything Ronaldo does is highly scrutinized.

Whether or not he may have been in any type of pain due to a legitimate foul is not considered. Some injuries look worse than others, but they are all judged highly by the world which is why no matter what he does he will be considered a flopper.

It’s questionable whether or not some cases are flopping, either way he will be in the news and for this fact it makes him one of the most famous floppers.

Having those big soccer stars as floppers, that’s why many people consider soccer as an overrated activity!

Risks and sanctions of faking an injury in soccer

Faking an injury is not a victimless crime. One issue often overlooked about faking an injury is the impact it has on data involving injury research. Constant faking skews the numbers related to certain injuries.

On the small scale, it may seem insignificant if a few fake injuries are able to fool a ref here and there.

On a large scale these skewed numbers run the risk of altering the way medical attention reacts to certain injuries.

If players consistently fake an injury and get caught, then the next time a player actually gets hurt then officials will not take the situation as serious as they should.

What ends up happening is a classic case of the boy who cried wolf. If players cry too many times, then when something does happen no one will know the true severity of the injury.

Is VAR enough to limit this?

Video Assistant Referees, VAR, is basically instant replay. It’s what’s been missing from Major League Soccer and all around the world.

Considering every other major sports league uses instant replay, it was only a matter of time before soccer finally got in on this amazing technology.

Now, with the use of VAR they can get different angles to help with their calls.

Since VAR is a third party witness, refs can ask for a replay or VAR can suggest a replay to refs. It’s a two-way street.

In the case of injuries, VAR is effective at seeing whether or not a collision took place warranting an injury. This gives the power back to the refs when making a call.

Unfortunately, VAR has its limitations. A collision may not appear hard hitting, but it could still result in an injury. It still leaves most refs having to make the call on whether or not a player is flopping.

Rules suggestions to limit this …

One suggestion is to suspend a player a few games who is caught intentionally faking an injury. A one or two game suspension seems fair.

If the type of behavior continues, then longer suspensions or season suspension might be an extreme official may want to consider.

On the amateur league level, a game suspension seems fair.

On a professional level, a game suspension could mean a bigger impact on a player’s career if suspended. A key player missing from a team hurts the entire team as a whole.

Another suggestion would be fines. The threat of hurting a player’s wallet will hopefully encourage them not to run the risk of flopping.

The rules for flopping should be strict. By design flopping is unethical and in a way could be comparable to cheating.

Rules for cheating are explicit and flopping should fall under the same umbrella that carry the same amount of consequence.

Does this influence soccer reputation?

All sports have moments of players faking an injury. It’s soccer that gets the most attention for it. It could be because soccer has the largest fan base since it is a worldwide sport.

More critics exist to scrutinize players who are caught exaggerating their injury.

With many cases of players barely being touched and dropping to the ground as though they were hit with a sledgehammer, it sends the wrong message to fans and nonfans alike.

It severely tarnishes soccer’s reputation.

The players appear “soft” and overdramatic, which is the complete opposite of what they are.

For nonfans, it suggests to them that flopping is part of the sport and is to be expected.

This makes it difficult to turn someone into a soccer fan when they have this preconceived notion that being dishonest is part of the sport.

Do women’s soccer fake injuries too?

According to one survey, women are less likely than men to fake soccer injuries!

Does this mean they do not fake an injury? The answer is yes, they still do fake injuries. But the numbers are shocking in comparison.

Men are more likely to stay 30 seconds down longer than a woman after having an injury on the field. In these cases, both players seem to be fine five minutes after their “injury.”

Why do men flop more than women?

One suggestion is because women soccer players must “tough” it out in order to be legitimated to viewers. Otherwise, their male counterparts will get all the glory.

Even with substantial proof that men fake more and for longer time, there are still more fans willing to watch male matches than female matches.

In order to hang on to viewers and fans women soccer players must drop the theatrics.

This is why you are less likely to hear about women soccer players faking an injury.

On the other hand, male leagues are given more of a pass when caught flopping. They know they will still get viewers, and the chance of losing fans over a flop is less likely.

Do futsal soccer players fake injuries too?

Futsal is different in that the game is in a constant close quarters situation. There are less situations where a collision will take place in a futsal match.

A perfect example is when a midfielder has their fall broken by an opponent after coming down from a header and then proceeds to over emphasize how painful their fall was. In futsal, there is no midfielder going for a header.

You are less likely to see slide tackles or tripping. Futsal is all about technique. A skillful, technical futsal player avoids any contact from an opponent by dribbling past them.

There’s no need to get physical and power through an opponent.

Injuries occur in futsal, but flopping seems to be more a professional outdoor league problem you don’t see much in futsal.

Players are focused on quick matchups that either result in speedy goals or fast passes to get better positioning. Unlike traditional soccer that takes time and more strategy just to get the ball downfield.

There’s no need to fake an injury to get a certain upperhand or positioning on the field. Everything is moving too fast to worry too much about strategy rather than just getting a quick goal.

Final Thoughts …

Hope this short article has given you a clear answer to this question that might be confusing for you!

One more reason why I think players choose to fake injuries is to get the protection of the referee to actually avoid being badly hurt.

In other words, once the referee thinks that a given player is targeted violently by opponent defenders he might pay close attention and sanction any defender who might hurt him.

In my modest opinion, that’s a legitimate reason, simply because soccer injuries are ruthless and could cost many months for a player, or even a full season of inactivity!

That’s why; sometimes faking being hurt to protect yourself and your career is not really that unethical!

Finally, I highly invite you to learn why soccer is considered by many a fall sport … I think you will find that quite interesting!

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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