06/21/2010 03:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

World Cup Soccer Players Can Learn a Thing or Two From Method Acting

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2010: In the last minutes of Sunday's match between Brazil and Côte d’Ivoire, a suspicious incident of playacting went down, earning Brazil’s star player Kaká a red card and ejection from the game.

The forward, Abdul Kader Keïta, was not hit with the ball or slapped across the face or punched, just bumped by the Brazilian star Kaká, who did little more than shrug, sticking his right elbow into Keïta’s chest.

That was all it took for Keïta to fall to the turf as if he had been doused with pepper spray.

The referee punished Kaká with a yellow card, his second of the game, forcing his ejection and leaving his team a man down for the rest of the game.

Many who saw the replay wondered whether Keïta’s fall was the tournament’s latest example of what officials call simulation. Much of the flopping, flailing and falling in soccer is little more than diving to the turf in an effort to dupe the referee.

If successful, the diver could be awarded an unimpeded kick from the point of the infraction or, if it occurs in the penalty area in front of the goal, a penalty kick from 12 yards.

Fans are already seeing as much bad playacting as tricky dribbling during the World Cup in South Africa, despite efforts by FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, to punish divers. Some of the best players in the world crumple under imaginary contact to win a penalty, or writhe in seeming pain to run the clock down or give their teammates a breather.

“I wish it wasn’t part of the game,” said Paul Tamberino, the director of referee development for U.S. Soccer. “Players will do whatever they can.”

c.1888: In his autobiography My Life in Art, Konstantin Stanislavsky takes his first steps towards method acting during a particularly rousing set piece.

[D]uring the mob scene…I gave myself up against my own will to the general atmosphere of excitement prevalent, and could do nothing with myself. No matter how much I strained in order to control my gestures, in the end my temperament mastered me and my consciousness, and I lost all control of myself to such a degree that after the performance was over I could not remember what I had done on the stage. Covered with sweat from excitement, I walked across the hall to the table of the stage director in order to share my troubles with him.

“I know, I know,” I waved my hands, “what you will tell me. That I let go of my gestures. But it was more than I could do to restrain them. Look I have scarred my palms with my fingernails.”

What was my surprise when all present attached my with exclamations of praise.

“Fine! You made a wonderful impression! What restraint! Play like this on the first night, and nothing more is necessary.”

“But at the end I let go of my gestures, and no longer controlled myself, I dropped all restraint.”

“That is what was necessary”

“It was necessary that I let go of my gestures?”

“Yes. What does controlled gesture mean when a man is carried out of himself?” I was told. “What was good was that we saw how you controlled yourself more and more, until at last something tore in you, and you control yourself no longer. This is what is called growth, crescendo, a musical passing from piano to forte. Emotions rose from the lowest to the highest notes, from calmness to insanity. This is what you must remember. Control yourself while you have the strength to control yourself—the longer, the better. Let the gradual rise to the tip by long, and the last moment of striking short, otherwise your blow will loose its effect. Mediocre actors usually do the very opposite. They leave out the most interesting gradual growth of emotion and leap directly from the piano to the fortissimo, where they remain for a long time.”

“Ah, so that is the secret? That is something from the region of practical advice which is so necessary to the actor. This is my first, my necessary stage baggage, which I will guard faithfully.”