While everyone seems to focus on the dark side of football a lot of the time – diving, handballs, imaginary cards being waved at the referee, and so forth – not as much emphasis is placed on fair play. Realistically, the majority of games are played in a pretty clean fashion even if there are a few hard tackles, but I guess fair play just doesn’t sell as well as dirty play.
With that said, in football history, there have been some acts of fair play and sportsmanship that stood out so much that they did get the same publicity as a terrible challenge. Here are five of the best.
#5 Di Canio catches the ball
Paulo Di Canio didn’t exactly have a spotless reputation on – or off – the pitch. In England he’s perhaps remembered better for shoving referee Paul Alcock to the ground while playing for Sheffield Wednesday than he is for his insane scissor kick goal for West Ham, and he also courted controversy by flashing Nazi salutes while playing for Lazio and by smashing up his office at Swindon Town after being fired as their manager.
In 2000 though, he showed himself to be a truly sporting player during a match for West Ham against Everton. The game was in injury time when Everton keeper Paul Gerrard went down injured after a clash with a West Ham player. As the ball spilt towards the touchline, Trevor Sinclair collected it and sent a cross over towards Di Canio – who promptly caught the ball rather than firing it into the net, and then pointed at the downed Gerrard.
For such a display of sporting behaviour, Di Canio was greeted with a standing ovation from the Everton fans as well as their players. The game ended 0-0 and although the Italian’s decision cost his team two points, I don’t think anyone minded. Di Canio’s reputation was forever restored (for a while at least!) as he was awarded a FIFA Fair Play award for his selfless actions.