Though simulation in football is generally frowned upon, there are rare occasions where a player produces a dive so sublime, so magical, that you can't help but fall under its spell. For a fleeting moment, before the qualms and quibbles of sportsmanship flood your brain, you enjoy the dive for what it is – a beautiful illusion, a second of wizardry that tricks the mind and seduces the senses.
That's exactly the sort of dive Arturo Vidal produced in Bayern Munich's 2-0 win over Werder Bremen last night. Contesting the semi final of the DFB Pokal, with Bayern trying to preserve a one-goal lead, Vidal resorted to enchantment of the referee in his Faustian hunger for success. With 20 minutes left to play, the combative midfielder found himself bursting into the opposition box and bearing down on goal. Bremen defender Janek Sternberg rushed across to challenge him – taking the ball and making absolutely no contact with the man.
Here is where the magic began.
With a flick of his torso, a hint of levitation and a series of seemingly impossible contortions, Vidal flung himself to the floor like a bag of ritualised animal bones. The tarot cards were cast, the snare set. Would the referee fall for the ruse?
Yes, of course he would.
Bayern were awarded a penalty, Thomas Muller tucked it away and the match was won. Dazed and confused, covered from head to toe in spellbinding fairy dust, it took the referee some time to break out of his otherworldly stupor. Several hours, in fact, after which he watched the footage back and immediately apologised.
This is the true magic of Vidal's dive, really. Despite the fact that he has flaunted the rules, acted duplicitously and flown in the face of common decency, it is the referee who feels compelled to say sorry. Vidal is a sorcerer, a warlock, a conjurer who manipulates his fellow man to his will. He lives in a world where he deceives people freely and profits from that deception. We'd sell our souls to live in that world. Please, Arturo, make us your apprentices.