Main Listening Report: Cheating in Football

Is it OK to ‘bend the rules’ in football; Is it ever OK to cheat? This week’s main report asks some football fans opinions on the topic of cheating and discusses what kind of cheating goes on.  You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report.

Breaking the rules

Cheating, breaking the rules, bending the rules, pushing the limits, gaining an advantage – we refer to all sorts of actions such as shirt pulling, a deliberate trip, obstruction, deliberate handball, diving, in these different ways. Cheating is clearly bad, while gaining an advantage is a positive thing, yet people may use both these expressions to refer to the same incident on the pitch. It just depends on your connection with the players involved.

Last week, Luis Suarez of Liverpool was pilloried by some pundits for what some saw as a deliberate handball against non-league side Mansfield (see the incident here). He was branded a cheat. Others saw an accidental handball and a player trying to help his team win. This incident split opinion, but most people agree that players have always tried to con the referee and try to get away with whatever they can.

But where is the line between a bit of cheeky rule bending and something that football fans regard as beyond the pale. We asked four football fans what they thought. Here are their answers.

Tim (Liverpool fan)

Well as an Englishman, the first thing I would say is deliberate handball especially when it comes to scoring goals in World Cups (reference to Maradona and his ‘Hand of God‘), and, uh, the second thing I really don’t like is simulation or diving because basically you’re conning or cheating the referee, and it just looks bad… it makes the game look bad.

Dave (Manchester City fan)

Beyond the pale in football? Football! And if not, a Paul Scholes (A Manchester United player) tackle.

Simon (Chelsea fan)

Aah, well, there are many things that a modern footballer does, but for me the number one thing is diving…. because the referee has a very hard job anyway, and then players just pretending that they’re hurt or trying to get penalties… I just don’t like that.

James (Manchester City fan)

Oh um, definitely kicking the ball, on purpose, kicking the ball at someone’s head… because it’s very dangerous, you could kill somebody (See here for more on the incident James is referring to).

So there we have it – it looks like diving is one thing that annoys fans, but the comments by the Manchester City fans aimed at their rivals Manchester United show just how partisan opinions can be when it comes to what is cheating.

Vocabulary support

bend the rules: to cheat a little bit without breaking the law

a trip: when a player hits or taps the legs of another player and causes them to fall over; a trip usually knocks one leg against the other, making the runner fall over

obstruction: unfairly standing in the way of another player and preventing them from reaching the ball; blocking

diving: pretending to have been knocked over/fouled; simulation

be pilloried: be heavily criticised; be attacked

non-league; semi-professional or amateur level football; in England there are four professional leagues, so non-league is the fifth tier (level) or lower

be branded: be called; be named

beyond the pale: totally unacceptable; terrible; very bad behaviour

con: to trick; to cheat someone; to deceive

partisan: biased towards your team; overly supportive of your side



I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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