Soccer Players Conveniently 'Get Injured' When Their Team Benefits From It
Watching a soccer match can be very much like watching a sitcom with terrible acting. To gain an advantage and help their team win, players regularly engage in acrobatic, unsporting antics, which may include flamboyantly falling to draw a foul, feigning an injury to waste time, or crying out in pain while clutching their neck after beingly lightly tapped on the shoulder.
Savvy futbol fans, of course, aren't buying it. In Seattle, the 40,000+ Sounders faithful chant in unison, "Let him die!" when they deem the "injured" player to be a faker. Now, a new study published to the journal Frontiers in Psychology has confirmed what Seattle fans -- and all other soccer fans -- suspected: footballers are huge floppers.
Researchers based out of the National University Singapore and the University of Birmingham watched thirty Euro 2008 soccer matches, 90 English Premier League matches and 63 World Cup 2010 matches, charting injuries for each team over the duration of every match. The timing of injuries was divided into six periods: 0-15th minute, 16-30th minute, 31-45th minute (including first-half stoppage time), 46-60th minute, 61-75th minute and 76-90th minute (including second-half stoppage time). The injuries themselves were categorized based upon whether they would benefit or not benefit the team of the injured player. For example, if a player suffered an injury when his team was up by a goal, that would constitute a "benefit" injury, as it would slow the game down and give his teammates a break.
The researchers focused only on consequential games. Thus, forty-nine of the 183 matches were discounted because their outcomes were meaningless in the context of the competition or they were blowouts, in which one team led by three or more goals.
When the researchers tallied and categorized the injuries, the results were clear: Towards the end of a game, players on teams that would benefit from an injury were far more likely to suffer an injury. What a coincidence!
Of course, this is almost certainly not a coincidence -- the players are simply faking their injuries.
The researchers interviewed three anonymous managers in the English Premier League about the obvious tactic.
"None of the three managers admitted to actively instructing players to feign injury but all were somewhat ambivalent in their condemnation of such behaviour," the researchers wrote. "One described it as 'clever', another admitted that players did it, 'to take the steam out of the game' and the third admitted they might tell a player to stay down, 'and take a breather.'"
Source: Derbyshire SW, Angel I and Bushell R (2016). When pain brings gain: Soccer players behaviour and admissions suggest feigning injury to maintain a favourable scoreline. Front. Psychol. 7:613. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00613