Fifa World Cup: Neymar blames Brazil diving dramatics on opponents trying to tackle him
Paris Saint-Germain star says critics can ‘never understand’ because they haven’t experienced the rough treatment he deals with from defenders
Neymar has defended himself from accusations of diving and play-acting at the World Cup after being roundly mocked for his theatrics in a social media avalanche of memes.
The Brazil star’s dramatics in Russia, where he rolled around on the pitch in feigned agony several times, drew universal criticism from fans and fellow players – other than his own teammates and manager, of course.
The most popular meme doing the rounds on Twitter and Instagram is the “Neymar Challenge”, where fans film themselves imitating Neymar’s antics, and the Paris Saint-Germain forward even tried to see the funny side by posting his own version of it.
“I saw [the jokes] but I took them with humour,” Neymar told reporters at a charity auction for his foundation, the Neymar Institute. “Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it.
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“My football is to dribble, to face the opponent. I can’t stand in front of the opponent and say, ‘My dear, excuse me, I want to score a goal’.
“I can’t do that, I have to dribble past him, I have to try to do something and he will not allow me to go past and he will try to foul me.
“A lot of times I’m faster and lighter than other players and they tackle me, and the referee is there for that.
“Do you think I want to suffer tackles all the time? Not, it’s painful, it hurts. After the games I stay back four or five hours putting on ice.
“It’s complicated but if you haven’t experienced that you will never understand.”
The Brazilian media also went in on the 26-year-old for crying after Brazil’s 2-0 group stage win against Costa in Russia.
Neymar had been awarded a penalty in that match after a ridiculous dive in the second half with the score at 0-0, before the referee overturned his decision having consulted the Video Assistant Referee.
“Everything Neymar does turns into news,” Dani Alves, Neymar’s Brazil and PSG teammate, said. “If he gets emotional, they criticise. If he colours his hair, they criticise.
“I want to see these people in Neymar’s place.”
Neymar scored two goals for Brazil at the tournament and made one assist, but it seems his contribution will be more remembered for his faking than his sublime skills.
“Criticising is a weapon of the weak,” Alves said, though. “I believe that we football players always try to do the best for the group and for our teammates.
“There are many people who are ready to judge us, but it isn’t our focus. If you know Neymar, you know how much quality he has and how special he is.
“I believe we have to take care of players like that because they illuminate football. It’s players like him that make football great.
“Criticising Neymar and players of that level is easy, what’s difficult to do is what they do.”