by Plechazunga In last week's Over the Bar podcast, peterstorey reminisced about his own playing days, which conjured up images of a younger, Cockneyer, longer-haired, tighter-shortsed, but still identifiably narked-off pete, muttering "wanker" at opponents, officials and passing investment bankers. He also pointed out, correctly, that going down easily has always been a way for strikers to fight back against the defenders who spend the game kicking clods out of them. The surprisingly non-thick Perry Groves made the same point on Radio 5 the other night. But even though he explicitly introduced "making the most of a challenge" as a way of countering fouls - as the foul's complementary opposite - he refused to admit that it too was a form of cheating. This is an increasingly common attitude, I think: to regard diving as cheating, and 'making the most of it' as canny, 'professional', maybe even cynical, but nevertheless acceptable. As a result, the notion of contact has been turned into a shibboleth, a dividing line between cheating and fair play. You hear it constantly from fans and pundits - like Groves, who said, roughly, "If you feel that contact, you're within your rights to go down". This is wrong - both technically and morally... like boning a coconut in an attempt to father an unusually hairy baby. First technically, as contact is mentioned nowhere in the laws (anymore). It is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a challenge to be a foul: you can foul a player without contact (like coming Cattermoling in without getting the ball and making him hurdle you); and you can touch a player without fouling him (as happens all the time in the rustle and bustle and hustle and tussle and muscle and general kerfuffle of a contact sport). Of course, most fouls do involve contact, and that makes it a helpful criterion for referees in deciding whether a player dived or was tripped. If a player falls and the referee sees no contact, that makes it likelier - though still not certain - that it was a dive. But that's the significance of contact from the referee's point of view - a useful piece of evidence to help him decide whether what he just saw was a tackle, trip, slip or dive. What it doesn't mean is that as a player, as soon as you feel contact a foul has by definition taken place, and it's therefore okay to fall over. To do so is morally wrong, for two reasons. First, plainly, it's a form of lying. It's a gesture that says: "that challenge brought me down?, when in fact it didn't, or not as dramatically. Of course being fouled is frustrating and unjust, but as a sportsman it's not your job to judge wrongs, or right wrongs, or ensure wrongs are perceived as such by the ref. It's your job to do your very best to get past the challenge in good faith (unless that involves high risk of injury). Second, falling over actually robs contact of its value as evidence. It?s like an assault case, where the victim is left with a black eye. The black eye is certainly admissible evidence - even though it's possible to be punched without getting a black eye (I once got floored by a bloke... no, we're trying not to lie here... I once got floored by a girl half my size, without getting a black eye). But if there were no social stigma around walking into a doorknob to make sure you got visible proof - to the extent that most assault victims did so as a matter of course and not doing so was regarded as stupid - then pretty soon black eyes would no longer be of any use as evidence of assault: that aspect of the system would have broken down. Of course, in the scale of moral wrong it?s not exactly genocide. We have all done it, football is a competitive and high-stakes game, and just as we'll never get rid of fouling, we?ll never eradicate "going down easily", "making the most of it", "playing for the foul", or any of the other styles and shades of simulation. The problem is that these - except outright diving, which in this country is still generally looked down on - are too oftenjustified as just another element of the striker's tool-kit. Here?s an example from a Caf thread of standard praise for this behaviour :Brilliant play from [fantastic striker]. He knew he had no chance of getting the ball and beating the GK and defender. He did what every striker is taught to do, toe poke the ball and go down on contact from the GK. He played for the penalty, and [rubbish goalkeeper, who resembles, if such a thing exists, an Amish pimp] obliged. If going down easily is wrong, praising it is worse.Someone once said that while a society without liars is unimaginable, so is a society in which lying isn't deprecated. Such a society would fall apart, and that's what's in danger of happening to football when cheating is tolerated, legitimated and even celebrated by respected voices in the game, and David Pleat.