Diving, Beautifully

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The 2014 World Cup has captured America’s attention, and as Americans speed along our (myself included!) crash course in futbol, a hot topic has been diving. For those few of you late to this bandwagon, diving, or flopping, is the art of embellishing injuries “to draw cards for opposing players, kill time from the clock or just give one’s winded teammates a breather”, as stated by Geoff Foster in his recent WSJ article, The World Cup Flopping Rankings.

I have taken issue with the unsportsmanlike nature of flopping elsewhere. Surely, my opinion is naive and would offend Hemingway’s sense of aficionado. Here, I simply want to draw attention to two findings released this week, the first in Fosters article, which researched some 300 instances of flopping to determine which “World Cup participant nation is the world’s floppiest?”:

“The Team Most Commonly Seen in Anguish: Brazil. There were 17 incidents in two games when a member of the Seleção was seen on the ground in pain—the most of any country. World Cup poster boy Neymar had five such “injuries,” the most on his team. In every case he was back on his feet within 15 seconds.”

Interesting to consider that Brazil is widely considered (objectively speaking) a favorite to win the Cup. But also interesting to consider that according to a study of fans from 19 countries done by YouGov and the New York Times’ The Upshot, “There is little debate about who plays the beautiful game; Brazil does. A plurality of fans in the countries we studied, when asked who plays the most appealing brand of soccer, named Brazil.” (See chart below)

Hmm. For something that is considered “universally despised”, flopping seems to be an integral part of what makes this game beautiful.

Clearly I have a lot to learn. In addition to the strategic intentions listed above, flopping has been related to cultural differences in economic policy, dating rituals, and so much more. It is institutionalized and varies by culture. And is celebrated. The commercial part of me is thinking about the branding value of drawing attention to oneself, in a sport where close-ups generally only come from scoring goals, which is rare, and can even appreciate the artistry with which some of these performances are carried out (see countless YouTube compilations). But fellow neophytes, please keep in mind this behavior occurs in a game known for what even the NFL (and certainly the NCAA!) would consider excessive celebration (i.e., doesn’t there seem to be an understanding that exuberant teammates can’t swarm the scorer until ample camera time has elapsed?), and the infamous and now ubiquitous announcement of “gooooooooal!”

As with all things, the more you learn the more you love.

Who Plays the Most Beautiful Soccer?(excluding your own team)
ACCORDING TO… TOP ANSWER 2ND ANSWER
Argentina
Brazil
Spain
Australia
Brazil
England
Brazil
Spain
Germany
Chile
Brazil
Spain
Colombia
Brazil
Spain
Costa Rica
Spain
Brazil
England
Brazil
Spain
France
Brazil
Spain
Germany
Brazil
Spain
Greece
Brazil
Spain
Italy
Brazil
Spain
Japan
Spain
England
Mexico
Brazil
Spain
Netherlands
Brazil
Spain
Portugal
Brazil
Spain
Russia
Brazil
Spain
South Korea
Brazil
Spain
Spain
Brazil
Germany
USA
Brazil
Spain

 

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