THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Brass Neck Award: Pepe
During Barca and Real’s bitter La Liga rivalry last term, we were treated to several Clásico collapses from the two men who would later adorn the posters advertising a Barcelona theatre group’s acting classes; Pepe and Sergio Busquets. Of the melodramatic duo, Pepe is arguably the cheekier offender, since he is much more likely to dish out the kind of treatment he pretends he has been subjected to. Among his most brazen offences was a clutch of his face last January, followed by much writhing in distress, after Cesc Fabregas had barely brushed the adidas logo on his shirt.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/pepedive
The Harder They Fall Award: LeBron James
Basketball’s biggest star has also gained a reputation as its biggest flopper. Inevitably, since fouls in a non-contact sport don’t tend to require much exaggeration, basketball dives tend to lack the sheer theatre of their footballing counterparts. A shudder of pain and a spasm backwards when a rival has lightly touched your chest is usually enough to get the call. LeBron, however, is a baller who brings stagework to his craft. One particularly impressive effort stands out; during the Heat’s playoff series with the Knicks, JR Smith brushed LeBron with all the sensitivity of a tender lover. The result; a sprawling, jerking tumble that propelled the 18 stone giant into the arms of courtside fans. Oh, and two free throws.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/lebronflop
Nosebleed Award: Leonardo Bonucci
Any day now we’ll hear the excuse; that was a defender’s dive. This certainly was. Having charged the length of the pitch to latch onto a pass against Palermo lately, the Juventus centre half rather panicked when faced with a prone goalkeeper. Instead of shooting, he knocked the ball sideways, then folded himself ever so carefully onto a bemused Samir Ujkani. Naturally, there was much vigorous head-shaking when Bonucci was presented with a richly-deserved yellow card. But later, at least, he admitted it was a fair cop. “I had to shoot but I got stuck for ideas. I picked up a caution and set a bad example, I serve a lesson.”
WATCH IT: bit.ly/TZ0yDs
Gamekeeper Turned Hunter Award: Christian Fischer
AKA The Paul Alcock Memorial Trophy. A pre-season friendly between Fortuna Dusseldorf and Benfica was abandoned after the Portuguese side’s captain Luisao took exception to referee Fischer’s decision to brandish a yellow card. Luisao advanced towards the ref, but appeared to make no contact before Fischer flopped dramatically to the ground, where, curiously, he took some minutes to revive. Benfica later condemned the tumble as a ‘lamentable display of theatre’.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/NqkJIe
Bravery In Chicanery Award: Marlinton dos Reis Teixeira
Surely this or any other year’s most courageous piece of pure skulduggery. The Brazilian motorcycle racer spun off his bike at a corner during the Rio Grande do Sul State Moto Grand Prix in September and initially considered the conventional approach to such a setback and attempted to remount.
But having lost previous seconds, Marlinton soon settled on a more audacious approach. Having allowed a few rivals to nip by, he threw himself into the middle of the track and sprawled there, like a stricken Ashley Young, gesticulating for assistance as more bikes narrowly avoided him on the wet track. His aim was a red flag and a restart. Unfortunately, Marlinton hadn’t counted on there being a camera trained on that corner and, once footage was reviewed, his ultimate reward was a ban from the championship.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/bikefake
Blessed are the victims
3: Gary Medal: Fabregas soon learned from bitter experience with Pepe. Cesc’s expert flinch and recoil when the Seville man stuck a head in his vicinity persuaded the ref to produce red.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/cescdive
2: Mick Pennisi: The Philippine basketballer got a headache and a rep in one. When an opponent threw a ball at his head, it took Mick a crucial second to realise that might have hurt. Mick then collapsed. The world laughed.
WATCH IT: bit.ly/pennisi
1: Julien Lecomte: The Belgian provincial league player was departing on a stretcher with concussion and three displayed vertebrae when, yes, he was presented with a yellow card for simulation.
Plumbing the depths of the Premier League
5: Santi Cazorla: Top-class tekkers. Even Stephen Reid wasn’t entirely sure if he’d made contact.
4: Ashley Young: Consistency in a world gone down.
3: Danny Welbeck: Another versatile member of United’s symphonised diving squadron.
2: Gareth Bale: The great psychic can see a tackle coming while the defender is still lacing his boots.
1: Luis Suarez: Admirable range — from jerking sniper victim to body-popping collapse in instalments. Alas, none are rewarded.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We trawled through our archive for a nice upright picture of Mr Suarez, but despite our best efforts this was all we could find! Sincere apologies :-)
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