(Reuters) - Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado’s sending-off against Napoli after he was twice booked for diving highlighted the difficulties referees face when they have to decide whether a player is play-acting or has been genuinely fouled.
Fiorentina fans were livid after television replays appeared to show that Napoli midfielder Gokhan Inler made contact with the Colombian’s shin in stoppage time of Napoli’s 2-1 Serie A win.
One fan posted a photograph on Twitter showing the exact moment when Inler made contact with Cuadrado.
The penalty was not given and Cuadrado, already booked for simulation, was sent off.
But there was a far wider context on which referee Gianpaolo Calvarese would have based his decision.
Without the aid of replays, Cuadrado’s fall, in which he lifted both legs off the ground and fell forward, looked like a dive rather than a natural tumble caused by a kick on the shin.
That could have been decisive because referees often make their decisions based on the way the player goes down rather than the split second in which contact, often minimal, is made.
“Sometimes, when there is a small contact, it’s easy to whistle but if the player makes it look worse, it makes it look like simulation,” Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers told Reuters during a UEFA event in September.
“The way a player goes down is very, very important. So players should not over-react when there is a foul ... That is sometimes why there is not a good decision.”
Furthermore, Fiorentina players appeared to make several attempts to win penalties in the game.
Cuadrado himself had already been booked for a clear dive in the area earlier in the second half so he could hardly have been surprised that the referee had second thoughts about awarding a penalty later on.
His team mate Giuseppe Rossi was also booked for diving in the second half after hooking his foot around an opponent’s outstretched leg and then throwing himself to the ground.
In addition, Calvarese had already awarded Fiorentina a highly controversial penalty in the first half and may well have discovered at halftime that he had made the wrong decision.
Spanish referee Alberto Undiano told Reuters recently that the referees were well aware of the new techniques players have adopted.
“Before, the simulation was like a dive into a swimming pool but today there are situations where the player trains how to provoke contact,” he said.
“You see the contact but it’s not always simple to see who provoked this contact.”
“Simulation is increasingly hidden, like doping. There are products which hide doping and in simulation the same happens, there are ways of making simulation difficult to detect for the referee, it’s one of the most difficult things we have to do.”
Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle said the referee “lacked courage” to give the penalty, although the opposite appeared to be the case as the official was brave enough to repeatedly turn down appeals from the home team.
“This referee is young, but at the 91st minute I need someone to explain to me why they didn’t give that penalty. Maybe he’s a bit young and inexperienced, so lacked courage,” he said.
In England, diving is seen as a heinous crime, whereas in Italy it is almost accepted as part of the game, with criticism mostly reserved for referees when they get a decision wrong.
To his credit, Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella refused to follow his president’s example.
“It’s a shame, but if we just focus on one incident then we ignore a great performance from Fiorentina,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “I am extremely satisfied with the way we played. We kept Napoli back and forced them to focus only on counter-attacks.”
Cuadrado, meanwhile, was left to contemplate his suspension at the weekend when he will miss the game against AC Milan.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty