Football is a beautiful sport and sporting moments capture its beauty.

10 best acts of sportsmanship football has ever seen

Arsene Wenger is one of the gentlemen of the beautiful game.

Sports not only consigns a competitive spirit amongst its practitioners, but also helps them imbibe a sense of discipline and the ethos of fair play. Football, like any other sport, has always celebrated its winners.


The game in the modern day has also seen its fair share of deceit and been blighted with ludicrous moments when players have tried to gain unscrupulously by making the most of situations.

However, there are occasions in the history of the game when results take a back seat when everybody comes out a winner and the sporting spirit triumphs above all. It reminds us why this is known as the 'beautiful game' and why the sportsman spirit can truly triumph above all.

Here are ten of the most renowned acts of sportsmanship that this game has seen.

10. Robbie Fowler vs Arsenal, 1997

Robbie Fowler is bewildered by the referee's decision to give him a penalty.

The game of football has often seen honesty take a back seat with the cut-throat competition. The business end of the season brings out more gamesmanship and the uglier side of the game. Well, someone forgot to give Robbie Fowler the memo.

In a match against Arsenal at Highbury in 1997, the England international was played through on goal by a long ball from Mark Wright. With just David Seaman to beat Fowler lost his footing while trying round up the goalkeeper. However, the referee saw an infringement from the ex-England custodian and pointed straight to the penalty spot.

In one of the most memorable displays of honesty in Premier League history, Fowler went straight back up and tried to convince the referee that it was, in fact, he who had lost his footing. The Kop favourite won a FIFA commendation and the hearts of many for his actions on that night.


9. Paolo Di Canio vs Everton, 1998

Paolo di Canio of West Ham receives an award from Everton's Paul Gerrard for his sportsmanship.

In one of the most well-recognised and famous acts of sportsmanship in modern-day football, Italian Paolo Di Canio reconciled himself and others to the more beautiful side of the game with a sporting gesture that we won’t forget for some years to come.

The fiery Italian’s outspoken nature had landed him in trouble on more than one occasion. Di Canio had been marred by a few moments of recklessness on the pitch which included a shove that sent referee Paul Alcock tumbling to the ground during his days playing for Sheffield Wednesday. However, two years on and the Italian showed the world that he had come full circle.

While playing for West Ham at Goodison Park, Di Canio made us witnesses to one of the most genuine moments of fair play that the world had ever seen. With the game poised at 1-1, and the clock striking 90 minutes, the Italian was presented with a golden opportunity to win the game after Everton goalie Paul Gerrard had collapsed while going out to challenge for the ball.


With the goal wide open and the match beckoning to be won with a single touch, Di Canio elected to catch the ball instead and bring the play to a halt to allow Gerrard treatment.

8. Leicester v Nottingham Forest, Carling Cup, 2007

The small matter of winning and thinking about results took a back seat in the League Cup tie between Leicester and Nottingham Forest in 2007. Leicester defender Clive Clark collapsed in the dressing room during the interval.

This resulted in the two teams deciding to abandon the tie with Clark’s life seemingly in danger. A replay was arranged three weeks later. The kick-off of the replay brought up a moment that will remain etched in the minds of all football fans for eternity.

The whole of Leicester’s side stood on one side to allow Forest keeper Paul Smith to walk the ball into the net unopposed to enable them to restore lead that they had in the previous game. Hats off to the Foxes!

7. Miroslav Klose vs Napoli, 2012

Miroslav Klose in action for Lazio in 2012.

In Miroslav Klose, the world of football doesn’t only have one of the greatest goal-scorers of all time, but also one of the best gentlemen in the game. The German is known for his goal-scoring prowess, but unlike many, he doesn’t resort to the “anyway and anyhow” mantra followed by many across the globe to get their names onto the scoresheet.

In a game against Napoli in 2012, Klose, playing for Lazio admitted to using his hands to push the ball over the line. The referee rescinded the goal which he initially had given on account of Klose’s admission.

6. Amin Motevaselzadeh

Amin Motevaselzadeh made a name for himself in 2010 with an act of selflessness that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Moghamvemat, the Iranian side for which Motevaselzadeh played, were involved in a relegation six-pointer when they visited Steel Azin that year.

With Moghamvemat trailing 2-1, the ball broke to Motevaselzadeh with the Azin goal at his mercy after the goalkeeper had ran out and got himself injured. Instead of putting his foot through it, Motevaselzadeh sportingly kicked the ball out of play. However, there was no fairytale ending as Moghamvemat were relegated at the end of the season owing to goal-difference.

5. Jan Vertonghen

The big Belgian showed a great example of sportsmanship against SC Cambuur.

The big Belgian excels in the game not only due to his talents on the field, but also a big heart. While playing for Ajax Amsterdam, the centre-back was involved in an act of fair play that has helped him etch out his place on the list.

While playing for Ajax against SC Cambuur, Vertonghen, then aged 19 accidentally put the ball into the opponent’s net while trying to give the ball back to the opposition goalie after they had sportingly kicked the ball out of play for one of Vertonghen's team-mates to receive treatment.

The apologetic Belgian then ordered his team-mates to stand aside to allow the opposition to walk the ball into the net to restore parity. A gentlemanly act of the highest order.

4. Costin Lazar

Costin Lazar (L), in action for the Romanian team.

Costin Lazar is not a name that many are supposed to be familiar with outside of Romania. But, the then Rapid Bucharest man’s actions in a game against fellow Romanian side Otelul Galati deserves recognition from football fans all across the globe.

Lazar had won his team a penalty in a match between the teams mentioned above in 2009, after having fallen over inside the penalty box. But, the kind-hearted Lazar begged to differ with the referee’s decision. After being awarded the spot-kick, Lazar reasoned to the ref that the Otelul player had won the ball fairly and got him to overturn the decision.


3. Vittorio Esposito

Vittorio Esposito is another name that you might not have heard before, but his actions deserve plaudits of the same order as the better-known names on this list. The US Tremoli forward, Esposito took matters into his own hands after not being able to digest what he thought was a faulty decision by the referee to award his side a penalty in a game against Torres in March 2012.

Esposito did justice himself as he promptly stepped forward to take the spot-kick and intentionally lifted the ball over the bar to provide some self-justice.

2. Yeovil Town, 2004

Yeovil Town allowed the opposition to level the scores after Lee Johnson's blunder.

Yeovil Town committed a blunder of the same nature as Jan Vertonghen in a League Cup tie against Plymouth in 2004. Lee Johnson, son of their manager Gary Johnson mistakenly put too much fizz into the ball while kicking it back to the Pilgrim’s goalkeeper Luke McCormick after they had put the ball out for attention to an injured player.

Order, however, was quickly restored as Gary Johnson ordered his team to stand aside to allow Plymouth to walk the ball into the net. Sadly the match wasn’t telecasted, and hence no video of the incident could be brought forward. Lee Johnson ended up scoring a hat-trick as Yeovil won 3-2 in extra time.


1. Arsene Wenger, 1999

Steve Bruce, Sheffield United manager, argues with officials over Arsenal's goal.

In 1999, Arsene Wenger brought into the club, another young gem by the name Nwankwo Kanu. However, the FA Cup game against Sheffield United was a game that was a tad too soon for the Nigerian to come to terms with the protocols of the English game.

With about ten minutes left in the game and the game in the balance at 1-1, the Blades had put the ball out to allow one of the players to receive treatment. Kanu, still unaware of the etiquette, latched on to Ray Parlour’s throw-in which was meant for Sheffield United keeper Alan Kelly and promptly set up Marc Overmars up to score.

Left red-faced, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger decided to void the result and to replay the game to bring a sense of justice, after an almighty commotion from an aggrieved Sheffield United side. Arsenal ended up winning the rematch 2-1.

Edited by
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