Getting a reputation for diving means penalties are not always awarded where they should be. But diving is nothing new
The catchphrase "don't forget the diver" was made popular by the wartime radio show ITMA but originated with a one‑legged man who used to dive for coins off the pier at New Brighton. In football it would appear that this Merseyside tradition is being kept alive by a two-legged Uruguayan who dives for penalties rather than pennies.
Unfortunately for Luis Suárez and Liverpool there are growing signs that referees, aware of the player's reputation for going down at the slightest touch, if that, are now refusing to award penalties when the evidence suggests that Suárez has indeed been fouled. Maybe they just think 'it's that man again' and ignore the victim's habitual expression of pained disbelief.
Either way Liverpool should clearly have had a penalty at Carrow Road last weekend after Suárez had been pulled down by Norwich's Leon Barnett and another at Old Trafford a week earlier when he was fouled by Jonny Evans of Manchester United. Brendan Rodgers is worried that referees may be influenced by Suárez's thespian antics, which have already brought him one booking this season for simulation, although the Liverpool's manager's bizarre suggestion that his players might have to go down more often to get penalties hardly helps his argument.
This summer's European Championship was relatively free of dives so maybe players and managers are taking the authorities' moves against simulation on board. Yet the notion that foreigners are more prone to diving than British footballers dies hard.
This week the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, insisted that "down the years there have been plenty of players diving and you have to say particularly foreign players". Ferguson's barnacled view was in sharp contrast to the more measured judgment of Sergio Agüero, Manchester City's Argentinian striker, following the champions' 2-1 win at Fulham after they had had two confident penalty appeals refused by Mark Halsey when Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta were caught in the area.
Agüero felt that in the Premier League decisions were more inclined to go against foreign players than the locals. "It happens everywhere," he said. "There is a little bit of privilege with the players who come from that country. That is normal. It is the referee's job to know who is tricking and who is not." Quite right, but it is only natural that players will get to know which officials are easier to fool.
Either way the notion that diving for penalties is a purely foreign import should be dismissed for the empty generalisation that it is. Footballers in the English leagues were diving like Esther Williams long before the ban on overseas players was lifted in the late 70s.
After Francis Lee, rightly or wrongly dubbed Lee Won Pen, went down when he was playing for Derby County against Leeds United at the Baseball Ground in 1975 an enraged Norman Hunter promptly chinned him with a punch of which Henry Cooper would have been proud.
Of course the critics wondered what the game was coming to but it is hard to avoid the feeling that Suárez and others of his inclination might feel less inclined to die a thousand deaths in the penalty area if they could expect, in the words of Tony Hancock, a swift punch up the bracket.
Maybe one of these days a fallen footballer will tell the referee that in spite of appearances to the contrary he had not in fact been brought down. It has happened. In 1997 Liverpool were leading Arsenal 1-0 at Highbury with 25 minutes remaining. Then David Seaman seemed to topple Robbie Fowler and the referee, Gerald Ashby, awarded Liverpool a penalty in spite of Fowler's insistence that he had not been fouled.
Fowler denied that his subsequent soft kick, which was easily parried by the goalkeeper, had been deliberate but since Jason McAteer scored from the rebound, with Liverpool going on to win 2-1, it did not matter anyway.
Today Fowler might get a yellow card for dissent. Even then his honesty was regarded as a curiosity rather than a blessing.