Fair play is at the very core of football, which is why FIFA is doing everything in its power to preserve it. Since 1997, Fair Play Days have been an annual event each autumn and this year they took place across the world from 3 to 7 September. Football's world governing body asked all member associations, leagues and clubs to join forces both on and off the field in order to promote this spirit.
This was achieved in a variety of ways, including through FIFA Fair Play flags and video clips in stadiums, as well as via team captains speaking directly to fans to emphasise its importance.
But for the people in the frontline - the players, coaches and directors - what exactly is fair play? FIFA.com went around the world to ask what it means to them and why it is so important. A selection of their responses can be found below, listed alphabetically.
Craig Bellamy, Wales captain
Fair play in football is the only way. Playing as a professional for many years, I know the importance of playing the game by the rules - and that applies in every part of the game. The whole game must be built on mutual respect for your opponent. In that way, the game can flourish and fans can see the best of the best.
Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA President
FIFA’s Fair Play campaign involves much more than simply promoting fair play on the pitch during a competition. FIFA is committed to encouraging fair play in society too, beginning with our future – with children. Children need strong values to grow up with, and football, being a team sport, makes them realise how essential discipline, respect, team spirit and fair play are for the game and for life. I expect players, officials and fans to set a perfect example of fair play.
FIFA is committed to encouraging fair play in society too, beginning with our future – with children. Children need strong values to grow up with, and football, being a team sport, makes them realise how essential discipline, respect, team spirit and fair play are for the game and for life.
Bob Bradley, USA coach
Fair Play speaks to the highest ideals of football and how it can serve as an example to people around the world. Respect for opponents, respect for referees and respect for the game are an essential part of the sport, and we strongly support FIFA’s efforts to promote Fair Play.
Rachel Buehler, USA women’s co-captain
When you really get back to the basics, Fair Play is what sports are all about. It’s about being on a team and creating relationships with people, whether it be your teammates, your coaches or your opponents. The game at the highest levels is very competitive, and winning is obviously very important, but when you think back to when we were kids and why we started playing, it was to get some exercise, learn some life lessons, learn how to treat people well and deal with adversity. Even though the stakes are higher as professionals, we hope these foundations of the game never change.
Fabio Capello, England manager
Football inspires people all around the world and that passion comes from the game being played in the right way, with the right atmosphere. Everyone plays to win, but how we react in every situation is very important. We all share the same passion for the game, and we have to respect each other at all times. It is important to remember that younger people watch football, and we are role models to the next generation. Since I have been in England, the Respect programme has had a positive impact on the game, and we have to continue to do all that we can to encourage both respect and fair play in the game.
Football inspires people all around the world and that passion comes from the game being played in the right way, with the right atmosphere.
Alex Frei, Switzerland captain
Fair play shouldn’t only exist during the fair play events of FIFA and UEFA. The Swiss national team supports all events regarding fair play in football and we feel that it is important not only to talk and to promise but first of all to act in a fair way, even when there are no special events such as this one.
Steven Gerrard, England vice-captain and Liverpool captain
Everyone loves football because of the passion and competitive edge, but it is important that everyone is able to play the game in the right way and the spirit of fair play is crucial to that. The game can't exist without respect between the players, coaches, referees, fans and everyone who is part of football. As a captain for Liverpool and also with England I've seen the way the Respect programme in this country has made a difference to the atmosphere between players and officials, and that's an important example for everyone who watches the big games. We set an example for young kids who want to play football all the time, and it's important that they can enjoy the game and play it free from pressure whilst learning the game. I fully support the FIFA Fair Play initiative.
Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland manager
Fair play is the most important element on the football field and stands for respect. Respect for your own team and for the opponent, the referees, the fans and the sponsors. Everyone has their own part to play in making football popular. It is even more important that all of the people on the field know that they’re ambassadors for football and act as such.
Philipp Lahm, Germany defender
Playing for both our clubs and national team we are seen by millions of fans and are especially in the focus of children. That is why fair play is very important, not only on the field but also in our daily routine. Issues such as racism have no place in football.
Eduardo Lara, Colombia U-20 manager
Fair Play is about solidarity and honour between players and clubs, on and off the pitch. Thanks to this idea, a lot of footballers have understood that football is a game and that any rivalry on the pitch should end after the final whistle. The concept, in my opinion, helps also to unify countries in our continent, where we want football to be one family.
Joachim Low, Germany manager
The FIFA Fair Play Days are a well organised initiative to show all around the world that there’s something more important for all the international players than having success. It doesn’t matter if it is a professional player or a youth player – respect for the opponent and a good behaviour is the base of our sport.
Aaron Mokoena, South Africa captain
We fully support fair play in football and we encourage everyone else to rally behind the initiative. Although I know that a lot can happen in 90 minutes and sometimes emotions run high, we have to always remain as an example to those who pay to watch us play. It is also about respect - respect for the game and for its fans.
Pitso Mosimane, South Africa manager
Football is one of the tools we can use to impact our communities and initiate change. That is why it's important for players to lead as role models in order to have a positive influence to the up and coming generation. The behaviour of players on the field is as important as their conduct off it.
Football is one of the tools we can use to impact our communities and initiate change. That is why it's important for players to lead as role models in order to have a positive influence to the up and coming generation.
Howard Webb, Referee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final
Football plays a hugely important role in the lives of so many people. It creates emotions of happiness and despair, frustration and relief, disappointment and fulfilment. But fair play underpins everything that is good about the game, irrespective of the emotion being evoked. Unfair play has no place in the game and a genuine sense of fulfilment or happiness cannot be achieved when fair play has not been observed, irrespective of the result. As a referee, I feel proud to be a part of this wonderful sport and to assist in establishing fair play and respect on the field of play.
Sun Wen, FIFA Women’s Player of the Century
Respect is one of the basic elements in fair play. A footballer must respect not only his or her coaches and teammates, but also their rivals, referees, audiences and all of the other people involved. A player should always be aware of their status as a professional and as such, should not get involved in any disgraceful demeanors both on and off the pitch. By doing so, you gain the respect of fans and opponents alike and safeguard the spirit of fair play.
Nigel Worthington, Northern Ireland manager
Fair play is an important element in today’s game and is something that I fully support. I think it is great that the football family worldwide are focusing on the area of Fair Play in September and I trust that the up and coming qualifying games will be played in the spirit of Fair Play throughout the world.
Fan Zhiyi, Shanghai East Asia manager
To achieve fair play, you should first understand that the game is not only about competition. As a footballer, it is your responsibility to respect the rules and regulations of the game and do your best to display the ethics of the game during competition. Should we reach consensus in such regards, we can gradually do away with all kinds of violence, which has been doing harm to the game for so long.