The Schwalbe – a dishonest dive

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In football (and I don’t mean American football), certain tricky players try to gain an unfair advantage by deliberately diving to the ground — sometimes feigning injury during the dramatic tumble — to make it look like a foul by the opponent. A dive* is what that tactic is commonly called; or a Schwalbe, if you’re German, Dutch, or just very hip to soccer lingo. I’m not any of those, but my Dutch friend is …

Such footballers going down to get a penalty mimic the dive of the swallow (known as a “Schwalbe” in German), which drops quickly in flight. Portuguese captain and forward Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be a master of the Schwalbe, as apparently is Uruguayan Luis Suarez.

One of the most famous dives in football history was that taken by Bernd Hölzenbein during the World Cup final between Germany and Holland in 1974. Hölzenbein got his penalty when he dove [dived?], giving the Germans their ultimate advantage. (Their winning streak continues to this very day — but maybe not always thanks to Schwalbes — or should it be Schwalben?) Soon after that groundbreaking 70s tumble, the tricky swallow-dive became known in Holland as “Hölzenbein’s schwalbe”, which quickly shortened to the German bird-name. Although mainly a Dutch soccer term, schwalbe now peppers the language of football cognoscenti the world over. It’s become quite cosmopolitan — just like the WAG, which began life as an Englishwoman …

Simulation is the official term used by FIFA

For Francine and the Holland team: good luck this afternoon

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