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Why Are Soccer Players So Dramatic? Overreactions And Simulation Explained

Ever seen a dramatic soccer player on TV? Chances are you have seen one in every game you’ve watched. Neymar at the 2018 World Cup, anyone?

You might have wondered why are soccer players so dramatic. Dramatics in soccer increases the chances of drawing the referee’s attention. This can often gift the ‘fouled’ player a free-kick or penalty. A player can overreact because it makes the foul look worse than it is. Due to the fast-paced nature of soccer and how difficult some fouls are to see, it is in the best interest of a soccer player to act this way.

Because it will benefit the team.

What Is Not Meant By A Dramatic Soccer Player?

A player that takes their top off and runs around like a maniac after scoring a goal is not what we are referring to. We are talking about when soccer players act injured when they are barely touched; known as an overreaction. Or when they are not touched at all; known as simulation.

Overreaction is when a player makes a foul look worse than it is. They might roll around over and over and act injured. As if they are unable to continue playing the game. When in a few minutes they are back on their feet as if nothing happened.

Simulation is when a player blatantly cheats to deceive the referee. You often see this when a player falls over in the opposing team’s penalty box in the last minutes of the game. Even though they weren’t touched. This is also called diving, which is against the rules. Any player caught diving will receive a yellow card.

But why do they do it?

Why Are Soccer Players Dramatic?

The number one reason you see them overreact on the soccer pitch is down to a term called gamesmanship. The definition of gamesmanship is the following:

“The art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients without actually violating the rules. : the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective.”

In other words, a soccer player is trying to influence the decision of the referee and officials in charge. Overreaction or simulation can change the course of the game in their favor.

Unfortunately, this means players are incentivized to feign an injury. Whilst it may seem like the honorable thing to do to pretend no one can hurt you, by not overacting. It

doesn’t help the team win the game.

Let’s take two scenarios.

In the first scenario, a player gets fouled in the other team’s penalty box. But the referee doesn’t have a clear view of the tackle and is unsure whether it was a foul or not. Instead of the fouled player overreacting, they get up and try to continue playing. The referee makes the decision it was a fair tackle because the player continued the game as if nothing had happened.

In the second scenario, the same thing happens. Except this time the player stays down, rolls around a bit, and acts injured. The referee now has more reason to give a penalty and they decide to award one.

How Can Soccer Players Gain An Advantage By Being Dramatic?

We already know a player can earn themselves a free kick or penalty. The closer they are to the other team’s goal the better, but it can also be beneficial in their half close to their own goal when they risk condensing.

But there are a few other reasons a soccer player will look to gain an advantage through dramatics.

Yellow And Red Cards

A player who commits a foul has the risk of receiving a yellow or red card. A dramatic player can use this to their advantage.

If they know a player is on a yellow card, they can use overreaction or simulation during a match. This can persuade the referee to give them a second yellow card, and thus a red card.

They might also use this approach on the last player or a clear goal-scoring opportunity. If a player has the ball and only has one opposing defender to face, they may ‘go over easier’ and force the referee to decide on a potential red card.

Not only do red-carded players have to leave the pitch and lose a player for the rest of the game, but a yellow-carded player is also at risk.

With the thought of a second yellow looking in the back of their mind, they may have to change their play to be less aggressive.

Compared to other sports like basketball where an ejected player is replaced, in soccer, you lose that player permanently. Which is a big advantage for a team that has more players.

Time Wasting

A good tactic to run down the clock is to feign an injury. You often see soccer players rolling around a lot and stopping play when their team is winning and they are trying to run time out. This tactic works when one team is only a goal in front and needs to hold on.

A referee can stop play and add extra time to the end of the half. But this isn’t always a fool-proof plan, and time is often lost for physios coming on and off the pitch as well as restarting play.

Buying Time

Although used less often, a player may also act dramatic and look to buy time for their team. They go down injured, which allows players to get back into position or take instructions from the coaching staff. This happens whilst the ‘injured’ player is being seen by a physio.

The Gray Area Of Contact In Soccer

This also begs the question of what is a foul in soccer. It’s difficult to gauge how much contact should bring down a player. If a player is moving at full speed, a gentle tap could bring them down, even if the initial contact was soft.

A player might roll a lot after a contact like this, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t warranted or that the player is being dramatic. Soccer players move at a fast pace and the faster you move, the harder it hurts when you go down. This is why referees can have such a hard time distinguishing a legitimate foul from a staged one.

What Other Rules Are There?

This aspect of the game will continue and is not going away anytime soon. As embarrassing as it looks for the players that earn millions, being able to gain an advantage from it is still a big part of a player’s repertoire. Though new rules are coming in, like VAR, to prevent this from always happening.

Here’s another rule that is often misunderstood. How many soccer players are on the field at any one time?


How Can Referees Counter Players That Are Over Dramatic?

The introduction of VAR (Video Assistance Referee) in professional soccer leagues and cups aims to reduce errors in matches. Along with offside decisions and fouls, it can also help reduce diving. Although this isn’t a fool-proof method and dramatic players can still get away with it.

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A soccer player holding a large sweeper
Two soccer players battling for the ball
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a soccer player striking a ball
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