We’re one game into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and already the biggest complaint Americans have with the sport of soccer has reared its ugly head: Are they serious with all this flopping? Brazil player Fred (that’s his name) earned a penalty kick in a tie game in the 71st minute by leaning back into Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, who wasn’t there, and throwing his arms up in the air before falling to the ground. The sell job was good enough to convince referee Yuichi Nishimura to award the host country’s team a penalty shot. And that, as they say, was that.
To Americans used to watching other sports, that kind of behavior seems ridiculous. The NBA fines players $5,000 if they’re deemed to have flopped. NFL and NHL fans pride themselves on the toughness of their teams.
The blame for flopping in soccer shouldn’t rest so much on the player who committed the act—because he can get away with it -- but on the sport itself for accepting it.
“I cannot blame Fred at all — everyone tries it…” Croatia manager Niko Kovac said afterward. “Everybody is trying to do that. Like it or not, it’s part of football. I don’t blame him. I blame the referee.”
Croatia lost the most important game in four years because someone faked going down and got away with it. That shouldn’t be OK.