In 1987, FIFA decided to commemorate these Fair play instances by making a separate FIFA Fair Play award, 9 nations have went on to win it. Football matches are known for their intensity and pace which includes a lot of tackles, duels, one on ones and much more. The ugly side of the beautiful game has been highlighted a lot, like diving, handballs, fake injuries and opposing referees’ decisions but those who help in maintaining the fair side have been less talked about.
1. Denmark’s Morten Wieghorst missed penalty kick (on purpose) – It was a friendly international tie between Denmark and Iran in 2003 and the latter team was leading by 1-0. The exact timing of this incident is unspecified but by the closing minutes of the first-half, an Iranian player overheard a whistle which he thought was blown by the referee to indicate the end of first 45 minutes but it actually came from the crowd in the stands. After hearing the whistle, the fellow Iranian picked up the ball with his hands, prepared to leave for the dressing room but to his contrary, the referee pointed towards the penalty spot and awarded Denmark a chance to equalize the score-line. Danish Midfielder Morten Wieghorst had a brief conversation his head coach Morten Olsen and what followed was regarded as one of the best examples of fair play in football history. Wieghorst walked up to the spot and squeezed the ball off-target towards the right post and gave away the chance of making it 1-1. The Iranian players in shock went to Wieghorst and greeted him, while the fans stood up on their feet and applauded him. The Danish Mid was felicitated with the Danish player of the year award and also received the Olympic Committee Fair Play Award in 2003.
2. Werder Bremen’s Aaron hunt doesn’t take the penalty – During a Bundesliga clash between Werder Bremen and Nuremberg in March 2014, Aaron Hunt was seen approaching towards the opposition box with the left winger finding Aaron with a concise pass. Hunt took a touch too hard and the ball fumbled far ahead of him and since he was inside the opposing box, he dived and the referee immediately called it a Penalty. Once Aaron got up, he was quick to ask the referee to overturn his decision to award Werder Bremen a Penalty which could have tripled their lead against Nuremberg. “I was looking for that contact and I wanted a penalty. That was pure instinct, but it was wrong. I had to think about it, but we don’t want to win a match like that.” – said Aaron Hunt after the match.
3. Miroslav Klose confesses handball – Another incident of fair play came in 2012 when Lazio were squaring up against Napoli during their Serie A tie. Germany’s legendary player Miroslav Klose was wearing Lazio colors and opened the scoring in the 4th minute from a corner. Players from Napoli had a firm disagreement to the referees decision and claimed that Klose glanced the ball using his hand. The German on the other hand confessed his actions and the goal was disallowed. The referee shook his hands and booked him while the Napoli players surrounded him to thank him for that. Meanwhile, Napoli defeated Lazio by 3-0 but Miroslav Klose earned himself an award from Sports Ethics Award from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
4. Lothar Matthaus consoles an English player – West Germany’s Semi-final match against England in 1990 FIFA World cup, the match was decided through penalties. England’s Stuart Pearce missed his shot and Chris Waddle had the responsibility to save the game. However, Waddle blasted his shot way above the bar and England were out of the tournament. Former Germany player Lothar Matthaus went straight towards Chris Waddle to console him instead of celebrating. This was another great example of fair play during a football match.
5. Di Canio caught the ball – In 2000, though, he demonstrated his ability to be a true sporty player during a match for West Ham against Everton. Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was injured during injury time after colliding with a West Ham attacker. As the ball splattered towards the touchline, Trevor Sinclair gathered it and threw a cross over to Di Canio, who immediately caught it rather than firing it into the net, and then pointed to the downed Gerrard. Di Canio received a standing ovation from both Everton supporters and players for such a demonstration of sporting behavior. The game finished 0-0, and the Italian’s choice lost his team two points.
FIFA Fair Play Trophy winners list
- Peru – 1970 (Mexico World Cup)
- West Germany – 1974 (West Germany World Cup)
- Argentina – 1978 (Argentina World Cup)
- Brazil – 1982 (Spain World Cup)
- Brazil – 1986 (Mexico World Cup)
- England – 1990 (Italy World Cup)
- Brazil – 1994 (USA World Cup)
- England/France – 1998 (France World Cup)
- Belgium – 2002 (South Korea/Japan World Cup)
- Brazil/Spain – 2006 (Germany World Cup)
- Spain – 2010 (South Africa World Cup)
- Colombia – 2014 (Brazil World Cup)
- Spain – 2018 (Russia World Cup)
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