Is it me or am I seeing things?
There appears to be a noticeable change in the attitude of some match officials in dealing with the ducking and diving that we have, unfortunately, become all too used to in recent years.
You know what I’m talking about – players falling over at the slightest touch and giving the impression they’ve been hit by a wrecking ball.
Others collapse in a heap as though they’ve been run over by a 50-ton truck, if there is such a vehicle.
And others blatantly and deliberately set out to deceive the referee and his assistants by giving the impression, and sometimes insisting, that they have been fouled when it’s clear to all they weren’t even nudged by an opposition player.
I’ve been impressed this year with some of the refs, but only some, I must point out – both at international level and in the English Premier League – for their stance in trying to eradicate this “cancer” in our game.
For far too long, the refs particularly, and I guess it’s they who make the final decision, have allowed themselves to be intimidated, fooled and misled by players whose only aim is to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents.
And whatever it takes to get that advantage seems to be the order of the day.
That said, players from both sides have indulged in this most despicable and disgusting carry-on in the past – and with impunity, it would appear.
I’m assuming something was said in the corridors of power at national, federation and Fifa level that enough is enough, and that now is as good a time as any to act before it gets any worse.
I have friends who said they were turning away from football because of this very issue.
They said the sport was becoming boring and not worth watching.
Others were turning to rugby and other team sports, where there appeared to be more effort – and especially honesty – in the endeavours of the players.
I have to say, I can’t blame them.
I’ve been impressed this year by the match officials who are now, at last, taking a stance to eradicate this most unsavoury behaviour.
Only recently I witnessed referees leaving players spreadeagled on the ground when it was quite clear there was no contact with an opponent.
That’s what should be done.
And, what would make it even better, is if the opponent went on to score so they could get a rollicking from their team-mates.
We (referees/match officials) are the guardians of the game.
It’s our job to ensure a game is keenly and evenly contested. It’s not our job to decide one way or the other who should win or lose.
We had that only recently (well, a couple of years ago), when the ref in the Bafana Bafana vs Senegal World Cup qualifier was banned for life for giving the most dubious of penalties to the South African side.
Thankfully, he was caught out and given what he truly deserved.
Thankfully, again, these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
The vast majority of match officials are decent, honest, hard-working men and women who do their best despite all their human frailties. Despite what many might think and say, we are human and humans make mistakes.
Keep up the good work, guys, and the players will eventually come to realise they will not get away with the cheating that was so prevalent in the recent past. And, with luck, the crowds will again fill our stadiums, where they will enjoy this most beautiful and most popular sport in the world.
Follow me on Twitter: @dr_errol