“Fair play is a fundamental part of the game of football. It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense and respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans,” says the official website of International Federation of Association Football (FIFA). FIFA always intends to protect the basics of sport, which fair play as itself represents. World football body also launched The Fair Play Campaign (“My Game is Fair Play”), while the prestigious annual FIFA Fair Play Award is recognition of good or sporting behaviour or other actions by individual or a group who have greatly contributed to the promotion of fair play in football.
Nevertheless, lots of times we still forget about the importance of fair play in sports and Pierre de Coubertin’s motto: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part!” We rather abuse “Faster, Higher, Stronger” and mix it with Machiavelli’s “The end justifies the means”.
Fair play is a matter of everybody – from children to the professionals, who should be role models to the society in general. Fair play is noble act and if it’s done by youngsters, it’s even better. That’s why FC Barcelona young team’s fair play gesture (see video below) attracted so much attention. It was a great lesson learned by the youngsters which proves that fair play is more important than just winning.
The example of Barça’s young team “forced” us to take a closer look to notable fair play actions and gestures in football history in the last 25 years. Who and why were some of the honoured individuals or teams with the FIFA Fair Play Award (first time awarded in 1987)?
Gary Lineker, England legendary and remarkable striker, who still remains England’s top scorer in the FIFA World Cup finals, with 10 goals, received the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1990 for more than 15 years as a professional football player without a yellow or red card. What a gentleman!
Have you ever heard about Jozef Zovinec? Probably not. He was a regular amateur footballer from Slovakia. But as amateur he received the award in 1997. Like Lineker, he was never booked or received a red card in 60 years of playing amateur football. On the other hand, Paolo Di Canio did receive yellow and red cards. Even more, he has been a self-proclaimed fascist and one of the most controversial footballers in the recent history, but his fair play gesture a match against Everton (see video below) made him won the FIFA Fair Play Award in 2001.
In 2007, FC Barcelona received the trophy in recognition of the support for humanitarian causes and development programs that benefit children all over the world (in collaboration with Unicef; see video below). The activities are held by club’s Foundation, which is also supported by each player of the club who donates 0.5% of his annual salary to the Foundation.
One of the remarkable fair play moments in the history of football was in 2009, when Sir Bobby Robson was posthumously awarded for the “gentlemanly qualities he showed throughout his career as a player and coach.”
The examples of fair play by youth team of big club (FC Barcelona), professional (Gary Lineker), amateur (Jozef Zovinec), controversial character (Paolo di Canio) or coach (Sir Bobby Robson) are great prove that fair play is a responsibility of everyone and everybody. And the motto “My Game is Fair Play” has to be first among firsts in the bible of sport.