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There are many beautiful sights in football which delight the many fans around the world: a Messi dribble followed by a subtle chip over the oncoming goalkeeper; a 30 yard Ibrahimovich overhead kick which results in a mass English media bukkake over the enigmatic Swede; and John Terry being directly involved in a goal Chelsea concede.
For Tottenham fans, though, the sight of Gareth Bale hurtling down the left wing is for them the most sumptuous sight in football. Like a freight train, once he starts he’s hard to stop. And it’s utterly terrifying for opposition defenders.
He has all the youthful exuberance and purposeful running of a 10 year old taking delight in running away from their mum after they’ve done something wrong – leaving their mum in their wake shouting extremities and holding a rolling pin. He then proceeds to whip in a ball so deliciously appealing for any striker that it wouldn’t look out of place served on a silver platter in any Michelin Starred restaurant.
In world football, there is no other player like him. His pace, power and left foot have become the envy of most teams in Europe and made him into one of Europe’s best. Unfortunately for defenders he’s only going to get better, though. Well, he is only 23 after all. If this was twitter many would be using the hashtag key with ‘pray’ in some sort of comical fashion aimed at the unfortunate defenders. But this isn’t, so I’m not.
This season, Bale has been in scintillating form: scoring in Tottenham’s historic win at Old Trafford; running the show in the first half against Liverpool; and scoring a hat-trick in the Boxing day fixture against Aston Villa.
Despite this, there has been one criticism aimed at Bale. One which sticks if you unfortunately get a reputation for it. One which results in howls of derision from opposition fans even if it was perfectly harmless and nothing was ‘intended’ in it. I am of course talking about his now unfair reputation of being a diver. A cheat. A worse-than-Hitler-Tom-Daley-aspiring Welsh cheat. Of course, he’s not. But that’s isn’t stopping the fans or even the referees.
Now, the consensus is: to earn this reputation you have had to dive in the first place? Of course, and there’s no denying that Gareth Bale has unfortunately been influenced by the Dark Side, been the Darth Vadar of Tottenham. One can remember the ridiculous dive against Villa at White Hart Lane, where there was a fair amount of green grass between the Villa goalkeeper and Gareth Bale.
Unfortunately for Gareth, everyone else can remember this as well. And now, whenever he goes down the oh so good fans of opposing teams call him for diving, and disappointingly, so does the ref. Now there’s a problem that arises here: not every tumble is a dive. But it seems every Gareth Bale tumble is a dive.
Bale’s game is all about pace and power and thus, his game is played with speed which most others don’t posses. As he hurtles past someone the mere slightest touch is enough to knock him off balance – to disrupt his rhythm that he’s worked himself into. It might not be a foul – even though there was the slightest of touches – but that doesn’t mean that it is then definitely a dive.
There is indeed a thin line between a dive and fall but that thin line needs to be made clear so players aren’t needlessly booked. Gareth Bale’s yellow card against Sunderland is a clear example of this. There was a touch on his leg which knocked him off his stride and he went down. It should have been a penalty but instead Bale was booked earning him a one game suspension.
Despite this reputation Bale is one of the most coveted players in Europe since introducing himself with a hat-trick at the San Siro. At present he’s a Tottenham player and considering he signed a new contract in the summer will be a Tottenham player for many a year.
But this is football. And this is a contract for a player who will become genuinely world class. Tottenham fans recognise they have a real talent in their team and they also recognise that he will eventually move on. They won’t begrudge him a move with Barcelona and Real Madrid waiting.
Andy Gray once said, “I’ve just never seen a player do what he does”.
Written by William Hold
Follow him on Twitter @liam17oi
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