Understanding Flops in Soccer: What Are Flops in Soccer?

Andrew Kovacs

Soccer, often referred to as “the beautiful game,” is known for its thrilling displays of skill, teamwork, and passion. However, there is one aspect of the sport that has garnered controversy and debate over the years: flopping. 

Flopping, also known as diving or simulation, refers to the act of a player intentionally exaggerating or feigning an injury or contact in order to deceive the referee and gain an advantage for their team. 

In this article, we delve into what are flops in soccer, exploring why players resort to such tactics, the impact it has on the game, and the measures taken by governing bodies to combat this behavior.

Whether you’re a die-hard soccer fan or a casual observer, understanding the intricacies of flopping will provide you with a deeper insight into the game and its ongoing battle against unsportsmanlike conduct.

What Are Flops in Soccer?

Flops in soccer, also known as diving or simulation, refer to the deliberate act of a player exaggerating or feigning an injury or contact in order to deceive the referee and gain an advantage for their team. It is a controversial tactic that has sparked debates and divided opinions within the soccer community.

Players often employ flopping as a strategic maneuver to draw fouls, penalties, or free kicks, hoping to influence the outcome of a match. By simulating contact or injury, they aim to deceive the referee into making a favorable decision in their team’s favor. 

However, this behavior is widely criticized for its unsportsmanlike nature and its potential to undermine the integrity of the game.

Flops can occur in various situations, such as when a player is challenged by an opponent, during collisions, or even in instances where no contact is made at all.

The act of flopping is often accompanied by dramatic gestures, rolling on the ground, or clutching body parts to make the simulation appear more convincing.

To combat flopping, governing bodies and referees have implemented measures such as video assistant referees (VAR) and retrospective punishment systems to identify and penalize players who engage in simulation. The goal is to maintain fairness and uphold the principles of fair play in soccer.

Flopping Foul Rules in Soccer

What are flops in soccer

Fouls related to flopping, also known as diving or simulation, are governed by specific rules in soccer. These rules aim to discourage and penalize players who engage in unsportsmanlike behavior by deliberately exaggerating or feigning contact or injury. Here are some key rules regarding flopping fouls in soccer:

Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct

According to the Laws of the Game, a player who attempts to deceive the referee by simulating a foul or injury should be cautioned with a yellow card for unsporting behavior.

Penalty Kicks

If a player successfully convinces the referee to award a penalty kick through simulation, and the deception is later discovered, the player may face retrospective punishment, including a suspension or fine.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

The introduction of VAR has provided an additional tool to identify and penalize flopping fouls. VAR allows referees to review incidents on video replay and make more accurate decisions, reducing the chances of players getting away with simulation.

Retroactive Punishment

In some leagues and competitions, retrospective punishment systems are in place. This means that if a player is found guilty of simulation after a match, they can face disciplinary action, such as a suspension or fine, even if no action was taken during the game.

Note that the interpretation and enforcement of these rules may vary slightly between different leagues and competitions. However, the overall objective remains the same: to discourage flopping and maintain the integrity of the game by promoting fair play and sportsmanship.

Why Do Soccer Players Flop?

Why Do Soccer Players Flop

Soccer players resort to flopping, or diving, for various reasons, often driven by a combination of strategic, psychological, and situational factors. While not all players engage in this behavior, here are seven common reasons why some soccer players choose to flop:

Gaining an Advantage

Flopping is often seen as a tactical move to gain an advantage for the player’s team. By simulating a foul or injury, players hope to deceive the referee into awarding a free kick, penalty, or card against their opponents. This can lead to scoring opportunities or disrupt the flow of the game in their favor.

Drawing Attention

Flopping can draw attention to a player, especially in high-stakes matches or when facing tough opponents. By exaggerating contact or injury, players may seek to highlight their skills, draw sympathy from fans, or provoke a reaction from opponents, potentially leading to disciplinary action against the opposing team.


In situations where a team is leading and wants to preserve their advantage, players may resort to flopping as a means of time-wasting. By feigning injury or exaggerating contact, they can slow down the game, disrupt the rhythm of the opposing team, and eat up valuable minutes on the clock.

Frustrating Opponents

Flopping can be used as a psychological tactic to frustrate opponents. By simulating fouls or injuries, players aim to provoke emotional reactions from their adversaries, potentially leading them to commit fouls or lose focus, which can give the flopping player’s team an advantage.

Influencing Referees

Players may flop to influence the decisions of referees. By exaggerating contact, they hope to convince the referee to award a foul, penalty, or card against their opponents. This can be particularly effective if the referee’s view of the incident is obstructed or if the player’s simulation appears convincing.


Some players view flopping as a form of gamesmanship, using it as a means to gain an edge within the rules of the game. They may argue that it is a strategic move to exploit loopholes in the referee’s decision-making process or to counteract opponents who they perceive as engaging in similar behavior.

Cultural Factors

In certain soccer cultures, flopping may be more prevalent due to factors such as the emphasis on winning at all costs, the acceptance of gamesmanship, or the influence of past players who were known for their diving skills. 

These cultural factors can contribute to a player’s decision to flop, as they may perceive it as a norm or a necessary tactic to succeed.

It is important to note that while these reasons shed light on why some players choose to flop, the majority of soccer players prioritize fair play and sportsmanship, and do not engage in such behavior. 

Flopping remains a controversial aspect of the game, and efforts are being made to discourage and penalize this unsportsmanlike conduct.

10 Worst Flops In Soccer History

Below are the incidents highlight some of the most notorious flops in soccer history, where players resorted to simulation to gain an unfair advantage or deceive the referees. While flopping remains a controversial aspect of the game, efforts are being made to discourage and penalize such behavior to uphold the integrity of soccer.

1. Rivaldo – 2002 World Cup

In a match between Brazil and Turkey, Rivaldo, the Brazilian forward, dramatically fell to the ground clutching his face after being hit by a ball kicked by a Turkish player. Replays showed that the ball had only hit his leg, but Rivaldo’s theatrics led to a red card for the Turkish player.

2. Eduardo – 2009 Champions League

Playing for Arsenal against Celtic, Eduardo dived in the penalty area, fooling the referee into awarding a penalty kick. The incident sparked controversy and led to UEFA introducing stricter measures against simulation.

3. Jurgen Klinsmann – 1990 World Cup

Klinsmann, a German striker, gained a reputation for diving during his career. In the 1990 World Cup, he famously flopped after a challenge from an Argentine player, earning a penalty kick for Germany.

4. Arjen Robben – 2010 World Cup

Robben, a Dutch winger, was known for his diving tendencies. In the 2010 World Cup, he dived in a match against Mexico, resulting in a penalty kick that secured the Netherlands’ victory.

5. Didier Drogba – 2006 World Cup

Drogba, the Ivorian striker, was involved in a controversial incident during the 2006 World Cup. He fell to the ground after minimal contact from a defender, leading to a red card for the opposing player.

6. Luis Suarez – Various incidents

Suarez, the Uruguayan forward, has been involved in multiple diving controversies throughout his career. Notable incidents include his simulation against Stoke City in 2013 and his infamous bite incident in the 2014 World Cup.

7. Cristiano Ronaldo – Various incidents

Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of all time, has also been accused of diving on several occasions. Notable incidents include his simulation against Aston Villa in 2008 and his theatrical fall against Barcelona in 2011.

8. Neymar – 2018 World Cup

Neymar, the Brazilian forward, drew criticism for his exaggerated reactions to fouls during the 2018 World Cup. His theatrics and rolling on the ground sparked widespread mockery and debate.

9. Dani Alves – 2011 Copa America

Alves, the Brazilian full-back, was involved in a controversial flop during the 2011 Copa America. He fell to the ground after minimal contact from an opponent, leading to a red card for the opposing player.

10. Sergio Busquets – 2010 Champions League

Busquets, the Spanish midfielder, was involved in a notable flop during the 2010 Champions League semifinal against Inter Milan. 

He fell to the ground clutching his face after a slight touch from an Inter player, resulting in a red card for the opponent.


Are flops only limited to players trying to draw fouls?

No, flops are not limited to players trying to draw fouls. While the most common reason for flopping is to deceive the referee into awarding a foul or penalty, players may also flop to waste time, frustrate opponents, draw attention, or influence the decisions of referees.

How do referees determine if a player is flopping or genuinely injured?

Determining whether a player is flopping or genuinely injured can be challenging for referees. They rely on their experience, observation skills, and the assistance of their fellow officials. 

Referees may consider factors such as the nature of the contact and the player’s immediate reaction.

Can players be punished for flopping after a match has ended?

Yes, players can be punished for flopping even after a match has ended. Some leagues and competitions have retrospective punishment systems in place. 

If a player is found guilty of simulation through video review or other means, they can face disciplinary action, such as a suspension or fine.

Are there any long-term consequences for players caught flopping?

The consequences for players caught flopping can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the governing body’s regulations. 

In addition to receiving yellow or red cards during a match, players may face fines, suspensions, or other disciplinary measures. 

How effective are measures like VAR in reducing flopping incidents?

The introduction of video assistant referees (VAR) has had a significant impact on reducing flopping incidents in soccer. VAR allows referees to review incidents on video replay, providing them with additional angles and perspectives to make more accurate decisions. 

Final Words

So, now you know what are flops in soccer. Flopping remains a contentious issue in the world of soccer. While some argue that it is a strategic maneuver used to gain an advantage, others view it as a blight on the integrity of the game. 

As soccer continues to evolve, governing bodies and referees are implementing stricter measures to combat flopping. Video assistant referees (VAR) and retrospective punishment systems have been introduced to identify and penalize players who engage in simulation

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with players, coaches, and fans to uphold the values of fair play and sportsmanship. 

By understanding the motivations behind flopping and actively discouraging such behavior, we can contribute to a more honest and authentic soccer experience. 

Let us strive for a game where skill, athleticism, and fair competition take center stage, leaving no room for the art of simulation.

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Andrew Kovacs

I am a Head Boys Soccer Coach at Amherst Regional Public Schools in Massachusetts. I have coached for the past five years and I am currently working on my master's degree in Exercise Science. I coach soccer because I love the game and I enjoy being around the kids. It is rewarding to see them develop their skills and grow as individuals. LinkedIn