Wonderful news for football referees and for anyone interested in the perception of human actions: A scientist, Paul Morris, has revealed the secret of the appearance of body movements during faked dives.

From the Portsmouth University website: Principal lecturer Dr Paul Morris has produced a study that he hopes could help referees know when a top player has genuinely been fouled or taken a dive.
Paul’s research shows that there are distinct actions which footballers use – either individually or in any combination – when faking a fall. These include:
# clutching their body where they haven’t been hit
# taking an extra roll when they hit the ground
# after being tackled taking fully controlled strides before falling
# holding up both arms in the air, with open palms, chest thrust out, legs bent at the knee in an “archer’s bow” position
“In most dishonest tackles the behaviour itself does not indicate dishonesty – the deception is revealed in the timing and co-ordination of the behaviours,” said Paul.
“But one action is unique to a faked fall – the archer’s bow. This occurs in many dives but biomechanically it does not occur in a natural fall. Instead instinctively the arms either go down in an attempt to cushion the fall or out to the side for balance.
“Although this behaviour is absurd, the fraudulent footballer does it to try to deceive the referee into believing that the tackle was illegal, and the histrionics are necessary to get the referee’s attention in the first place.
“This behaviour has no national boundaries; everyone does it, it even occurred unprompted during our research trials.”
Paul said that a player who positions his body into this peculiar shape to show that he has been fouled as a result of a tackle looks quite bizarre.
“Moving the body like this is completely controlled behaviour so it clearly doesn’t show a genuine fall.
“The moment both arms go above the shoulder is a clear indication of deception,” he said.

The arched body with both hands above the shoulder

It is hard to believe that it is as simple as the newspaper suggest that dr. Morris has described it (you have to be careful when the media start interviewing scientists). And won’t footballers start to train on avoiding these known ‘tell-tale’ signs? Still, it is an interesting idea. Quite interesting. Essentially, ‘taking a dive’ is a combination of (a) an enactment of a fall caused by tackle, (b) a shout or other dramatic action to attract attention, and (c) an intention to deceive and convince a referee. They should send footballers to special training camps for this. Or do they already do that? And then the referees can witness those trainings and the two groups can start sharpening each other’s wits. Ah, what wonderful human beings we are.

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