Tokyo, March 28, 2006: Think of a typical old-fashioned centre half and someone like Alan Stubbs comes to mind.
The veteran Everton defender is all heart and no nonsense, and has been in the news recently for some interesting comments about foreign players in the Premier League.
In short, Stubbs feels foreign imports are responsible for the alarming rise in gamesmanship -- and thinks the authorities should act quickly to stamp it out.
He's talking about the kind of things we see every week in the J.League: players diving to try and win free kicks or penalty kicks, players feigning injury to delay the game (just check out the closing stages of the Jubilo-Frontale match on Saturday), and players appealing to the referee to take out his yellow card and caution an opponent.
"It is a foreign thing that has crept into our game lately," Stubbs said, after the Merseyside derby against Liverpool.
"The foreign players have brought a lot of good things to the Premiership but a lot of the other side as well."
Personally, I am glad that an experienced and honest professional such as Stubbs should make a stand, because he will remember the good old days when none of this nonsense happened -- and it wasn't that long ago, either.
And while Stubbs has a point about the foreign players, English players dive, too. Lee Bowyer (at my favourite club, Newcastle United) and Shaun Wright-Phillips at Chelsea are just two of many examples, and I remember being embarrassed by Ashley Cole clearly diving for England against Argentina at Sapporo in the 2002 World Cup.
So this is not new; it's just that it's getting worse.
Stubbs says the players themselves must take steps to stop it, for example asking the opposing player why he is rolling around on the ground when he's not hurt.
I also like to see defenders giving forwards a piece of their mind when they have dived to try and win a penalty. This happened to Shunsuke Nakamura playing for Celtic the other day, I think against Hibernian, when two burly defenders frightened the life out of Shunsuke after he had dived on the edge of the box.
I think more Japanese players should start doing this when they know an opponent is cheating. Harangue the conman! Embarrass him! Make sure everyone in the ground knows he's trying to con the referee!
And referees should be strong and keep the game moving, rather than stopping the play and rushing half the length of the pitch to attend to a player who is feigning injury.
Stubbs feels that a player who waves an imaginary card at the referee to encourage him to book an opponent should be shown the yellow card himself for unsportsmanlike behaviour -- and I totally agree with this.
Just think what an enjoyable job refereeing would be if players were honest.
Sadly, that's just too much to ask these days, even in England.