Tim Vickery may have the best explanation for Chelsea striker Diego Costa’s antics

Costa Flag - Chelsea

The South American football expert’s view on Diego Maradona’s infamous handball against England could be applied to the Chelsea man.

Football pundits, players and supporters alike have already branded Diego Costa a ‘cheat’, but the Chelsea striker’s on-the-pitch antics may have a much simpler explanation.

To understand Costa’s approach to the beautiful game, we need to look at the 26-year-old’s cultural background and the approach taken to such antics in Brazil – the nation of his birth.

In doing so, revered South American football expert Tim Vickery offers the best, and simplest explanation of just why Costa behaves as he does on the pitch.

Writing in his blog for BBC Football some seven years back, Vickery outlined the contrasting approach to the beautiful game in a piece entitled “Coming to Maradona’s defence.”

The story sees Vickery launch a staunch defence of Maradona’s infamous handball against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and makes for fascinating reading.

In the piece, the South American football expert goes to great lengths to explain how football is viewed differently in countries like Argentina and Brazil.

Vickery, for instance, recalls how Bobby Charlton once put forward the idea of introducing a ban against diving during a FIFA meeting of former players.

What happened next is all the more telling in the context of Costa:

“Someone he [Charlton] calls "an old South American international" apparently replied; "Don't you think, as a professional, that if we can get away with creating an advantage for our side, we really should be applauded?"

I believe there is more tolerance of this type of behaviour in South America, where showing the cunning necessary to get away with something is widely praised. In Brazil it is often said that beating a big rival with an illegal goal adds extra pleasure to the victory.”

Despite earning nine caps to date for Spain, Costa was born in Lagarto, Brazil and raised in a rural region of the country.

He grew up with the same approach to the game and it's an approach that has paid dividends.

His needling of Gabriel Paulista, for instance, resulted in the Blues playing 45 minutes against an Arsenal side with one less player and, at the time of the red card, the game had been 0-0. 

Jose Mourinho labelled him man of the match and that is, in part, correct because his deception essentially helped to turn the tide in Chelsea's favour.

Named after Maradona by his football-loving father, Costa grew up playing on the local streets before moving to Sao Paulo as a teenager, where he eventually met Jorge Mendes – the football agent who would change his life forever.

So while English fans and the media may view Costa’s behaviour in a less than favourable light, to those watching on in Brazil and Argentina, it might just be seen as part and parcel of the game they learned to love as kids playing on those same streets.

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