To dive or not to dive in the penalty area? The questionable art of deception in soccer

Eran Sabag, Ronnie Lidor, Elia Morgulev, Michal Arnon, Ofer Azar, Michael Bar-Eli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the current observational study, we aimed to examine the questionable use of the diving act in the penalty area in soccer. The study is based on 339 events in 160 filmed games played in Division 1 in Israel, where a case of physical contact observed between an offensive player and a defensive player resulted in the falling of the offensive player. These events were classified by expert soccer referees into three categories–knocking down, diving, and stumbling. The experts were also asked to determine if a foul was committed by the defensive player in each of the three categories, as well as in an additional 212 events where physical contact was observed, but where the offensive player decided to continue to play. Based on the analyses of the experts’ decisions and those made by the game referees, the question “to dive or not to dive?” was not fully clarified. While the diving strategy partly succeeded in raising the chances of receiving an 11-m penalty kick, this strategy left the attacking player with no opportunity to proceed with his offensive effort to score a goal and opened another feasible outcome for the diving player–receiving a yellow card as punishment. These findings are discussed from both an instructional and an ethical perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-307
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 May 2020


  • 11-m penalty kick
  • deception
  • diving
  • soccer
  • yellow card

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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