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Home   /   Crossing the line in sport: is cheating always wrong?

Cast your mind back to the 2002 World Cup. What springs to mind? Ronaldinho’s lob against England? South Korea’s incredible run to finishing 4th? Ask Rivaldo and the football lovers of Turkey however, and they’ll remind you of the oscar-worthy performance of a truly laughable dive, that saw Hakan Ünsal sent off for a second bookable offence.

So, was Rivaldo completely in the wrong for cheating? On the one hand, it’s blatantly obvious that he has broken the rules, and gotten away with clear and obvious cheating. FIFA’s own rules state that “attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)” must be sanctioned as unsporting behaviour which is misconduct punishable by a yellow card. But, as we know, Rivaldo didn’t recieve a yellow card, while Ünsal did for the same reason of ‘unsporting behaviour’. Except it wasn’t. He was simply trying to speed the game up while his side were 2-1 down, and Brazil were happy to waste time. However, is there the potential that Rivaldo was simply doing what was necessary for his country to gain 3 vital points on their road to winning their record fifth world cup?

There is absolutely no doubt that in sport, that cheating is always wrong, no matter the circumstance. Not only that, but it ruins the overall integrity and global reputation of the sport. Let alone affect the millions of fans who love the sport for its entertainment purposes, or how replayable they find the viewing experience. However, there is the growing ideology that cheating may not be wrong, given the circumstance the act is performed in. In the moment, the act of cheating may be seen as necessary, and the correct action to take.

Rivaldo himself said that his dive was him “using his experience”, and you can’t really disagree with his assessment. Especially when the whole continent of South America adore the artform of cheating. They see it as necessary to gain any advantage for their side to win. The Brazilian winger also stated that: “the Turkish player shouldn’t have done that in the first place… the other player was still in the wrong”. Again, he has every right to make that statement. If Ünsal didn’t show any retaliation, albeit diffucult when you’re 2-1 down and the other team are deliberately trying to annoy you, Rivaldo never dives, and there’s no red card. Maybe Rivaldo was simply trying to counter-act Ünsal’s retaliation and get him punished for doing so. But from his over-the-top reaction, can you really conclude that was his true intentions?

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