Wilfried Zaha was again accused of diving at the weekend, and Jack Snell has had enough of it.
The past two weeks have seen the ‘diviest diver in the history of diving’ win two clear cut penalties for Crystal Palace. Of course, this is a reference to Wilfried Zaha. For the first, his leg was taken away from under him after a reckless swipe from Seamus Coleman. The second was clumsy defending from a defensive midfielder forced to play as a left back. However, football pundits and fans (from clubs of all sizes) are still standing firmly behind the conspiracy theory of Zaha ‘always diving.’
Ex Everton player Andy Hinchcliffe had the guile to call the penalty at Goodison Park, ‘a soft one’ during commentary. A soft penalty is a push in the back from a corner, a shirt pull, an unintentional coming together or a handball, not when one leg is forcibly removed from under the body by another player. The bias in football punditry is starting to become tedious and it is this sort of behaviour that allows the spread of false information about players. This bias extends to the likes of Raheem Sterling, who also seems to be the most disgraceful footballer in history according to some tabloids and journos.
The late penalty versus Arsenal was no different as it seemed to ignite a passionate uproar of the ‘Zaha Is a Cheat’ brigade, all rising up with pitchforks raised. Once again the punditry threw question marks in the direction of Zaha for his on-field antics.
The issue is that fans all of other clubs who do not watch Palace week-in and week-out will soak up all this bias and regurgitate these falsehoods with no evidence and no balanced analysis.
Now who are these people? It is likely one of three categories.
1. Jealous fans of other clubs.
No other side outside the top six has a talismanic player to the same degree as Palace have Zaha. West Ham fans will try to argue Marko Arnautovic is one such player, and this argument will, as expected, fall at the first hurdle. Clubs of the same ilk as Palace are OBSESSED with Zaha, namely Palace’s rivals. A Palace fan right now would struggle to name half of the Brighton, West Ham and Watford team because of the simple fact that they do not care.
Grabbing a point against the Premier League’s most in form team must be a hard pill to swallow for some of these clubs, especially with Zaha influencing the final score. So, what is the simplest thing to do? Just call Zaha a cheat to make themselves feel better. The double standards of this is that if Zaha would move to any club in the division then there will be a plethora people having to scroll through their twitter back catalogue and delete the reams of “Zaha hate” that has wallpapered their page for many years.
2. People who know nothing about football.
Anyone that has played a competitive game of football to a reasonable standard knows that when you are running at full whack your balance gets somewhat compromised. You are not a solid as when standing still as the centre of gravity is shifting around all over the place. The slightest nudge could send you flying, whereas a static spectator may see it differently.
This is not diving. Zaha was running at Granit Xhaka and he carelessly sticks out a leg. Zaha knows he is going to get a wallop but can do nothing about it. Does he stiffen up his body and allow himself to take the full impact? No, he releases the tension when he gets hit as to protect himself. This makes both his feet come up off the floor, but it is not diving. For anyone who has ever played football and been fouled knows this: if you know you are about to get smashed then you try to protect yourself.
This foul has been conceded countless times on Zaha this season in all areas of the park. It is not such a unique case, Zaha sends the defender one way but goes the other and the trailing leg catches him. Yet it is not until it happens in the box, in the last few minutes, against one of the best teams in the country that he is suddenly a cheat.
This is why people know nothing about football because Fulham’s Aboubakar Kamara disgracefully dived against Bournemouth. It was a clear deception, but since he is not Zaha he has got away rather lightly from that whole debacle. From playing football at grassroots level you are told as a defender ‘do not give the striker a reason to go down. Mamadou Sakho’s foul on Mo Salah was a soft penalty to give away Selhurst, but Sakho did exactly that, he gave Salah the opportunity to go to ground.
It is painful as a Palace fan to concede such a goal on the stroke of half time, but this part of the game. Soft or stonewall, it is a penalty if there is contact in the box before the ball, just as it is anywhere else on the pitch. Xhaka said there was contact and no matter how Zaha fell to the ground, it is therefore a penalty.
Palace fans are very protective and precious of our boy Zaha, so when people criticise him then these critics are met with a stubborn wall of defensiveness, and rightly so. However, after years and years of false accusations of Zaha’s apparent diving, the Pride of South London have become more frustrated with the naivety and ignorance of those who read something online and conform to the lie that Zaha is a diver.
Since the fanbase has become so passionate about this cause, there is a possibility that trolls are lurking in the depths of Twitter, trying to goad reactions out of Palace fans who have run out of patience. If so, it is working.
Now writing an article about this could be the ultimate victory for the trolls, someone stupid enough to waste their time on this. But, no matter who the haters are, Palace fans know the truth and a few Twitter comments here and there will not change a thing: Palace have the best player outside the top six whether opposition fans like it or not.