The FIFA Fair Play Prize for 1998 has been awarded jointly to the national associations of Iran , the United States and Northern Ireland .

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the joint award was proof of football’s role as a mediating force. "In the middle of the World Cup, the Iranians and Americans provided a powerful demonstration of the effects of fair play when they not only joined in the spirit of FIFA’s Fair Play Day on 21 June by posing together for the photographers before their match in Lyon, but also exchanged flowers and gifts among the players," said Blatter.

"The award, like that to Northern Ireland, is also intended to be symbolic for many other countries which have found themselves in a comparable situation."

The Irish Football Association was honoured for its continuing efforts to reunite the Catholic and Protestant communities. This was exemplified in the match in Belfast on 30 November between Cliftonville and Linfield, the first time the teams had been allowed to play at Cliftonville’s Solitude Stadium for almost 30 years because of sectarian tensions.

The Fair Play trophies will be presented at the World Player of the Year gala evening in Barcelona on Monday 1 February. Several other awards will also be presented on the same occasion, including the FIFA Fair Play Prize for the 1998 World Cup (jointly to England and France. Other awards include that to the FIFA World Player of the Year 1998, the best player and top goal-scorer of France 98, and the best team of the year.

The gala evening will also honour the latest inductees into the International Football Hall of Champions , and the top players in Spain of the last quarter century. The event is co-hosted by FIFA, the Hall of Champions, and the Spanish football magazine Don Balón , which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Note to editors : media wishing to cover the event in Barcelona are kindly requested to apply to FIFA in writing.