Cheating game

Cheating the Beautiful Game
March 20, 2017 – 07:16 pm
I can tell you exactly when I

In the sixty-ninth minute of the World Cup’s opening match, between Brazil and Croatia, with the score tied 1–1, the Brazilian striker Fred—players in Brazil typically go by their first names—went down in front of the opposing goal, seemingly shoved or tripped by a Croatian defender. Players from the Croatian team swarmed the referee to protest, but in vain; the referee gave the defender, Dejan Lovren, a yellow card and awarded the Brazilians a penalty kick. Neymar, a forward, briskly converted it, giving the Brazilians a permanent lead.

But, by then, even the television commentators were howling, as replays exposed the foul for what it actually was: a spectacular bit of theatre. Lovren had barely touched Fred, who nonetheless slid down on a pillow of air, his arms raised in mock protest even before he hit the ground. He’d faked it, to draw the penalty.

“Wait, what happened?” my wife asked, as we watched the replay once more. I found her incredulity touching. “Does that happen a lot?”

It does happen a lot. Supporters of any team will gladly point out the sport’s worst offenders, often implicating a rival team: the Irish (or Nigerians, or Uruguayans) are brutes! The Italians (or French, or Argentines) are cheats! Cristiano Ronaldo—Ronaldo’s name comes up a lot—is the world’s biggest flop artist! An article in today’s New York Times suggested that American soccer players are particularly poor at playacting, although it managed to quote only the opinions of American players.

But exactly how much cheating goes on in soccer, or whether any team or player really does more of it than any other, is hard to quantify. Perhaps the closest measure is a four-year-old study, still unpublished, by Chris Stride, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield. In 2010, Stride had two assistants watch, on playback, every minute of all sixty-four matches in that year’s World Cup.

Interesting facts

Cheating in video games involves a video game player using non-standard methods for creating an advantage beyond normal gameplay, usually to make the game easier. Cheats sometimes may take the form of "secrets" placed by game developers themselves.
Cheats may be activated from within the game itself (a cheat code implemented by the original...

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