Beautiful game's noblest gestures

Scissor kicks, mazy dribbles, crunching tackles and reflex saves: these are football's showstoppers, guaranteed to bring a crowd to its feet anywhere in the world.

Every now and again, however, supporters also have the privilege of witnessing acts which require neither technique nor skill and yet are steeped in every bit as much class. Acts which despite having zero bearing on the scoreline or the destination of a trophy go down in the history of the game and earn a special place in the hearts' of fans everywhere.

They are gestures of fair play, and FIFA.com now takes an admiring look back at some of the finest examples - moments of true nobility in the beautiful game.

Our journey starts logically enough in England, where the expression 'fair play' originated along with the game of football itself. There, in the 1950s, Welshman John Charles became a goalscoring legend with Leeds United, earning top-scorer honours in both the Second Division (42 strikes in 1953/54) and First (38 in 1956/57). Those feats earned him a move to Italy and it was while playing for Juventus that he scaled new heights as a forward, as well as gaining a reputation as a gentleman.

On 13 October 1957, Charles was contesting his first Turin derby against neighbours Torino when he accidentally collided with a defender before readying himself to shoot. Just as he was about to pull the trigger, he noticed his opponent sprawled out on the pitch and quickly sent the ball out of play."I only had the goalkeeper to beat but it didn't seem fair to me," explained Il Gigante Buono (Gentle Giant), who sadly passed away in 2004. "I put the ball out so that he could be looked after."

That selflessness made him an eternally popular figure among both sets of supporters - one of precious few men to earn that accolade - and he was still able to fire the winner in a 1-0 victory for Juve.

Di Canio and Fowler lead the way
A few decades after Charles's generous exploits in Italy, a gifted Italian returned the favour on British soil. Playing against Everton in December 2000, West Ham striker Paolo Di Canio found himself in front of an open goal as a cross came in, but instead of capitalising on an opportunity to win a match deadlocked at 1-1, he caught the ball in his hands.

The reason? Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard had been seriously injured in the build-up and the former Lazio captain refused to take advantage. Having made headlines for all the wrong reasons at various other points in his career, Di Canio fully deserved the FIFA Fair Play award he picked up in 2001 for his exemplary behaviour at Goodison Park that night.

Something about the Merseyside air must inspire such gestures, because an iconic forward from the red half of the city had already got in on the act back in 1997. During a high-profile match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Highbury, visiting marksman Robbie Fowler was awarded a penalty after tumbling under David Seaman's challenge, only to stun everyone - team-mates included - by informing referee Gerald Ashby he had not been fouled. In vain, Fowler tried to convince the official to change his decision.

The Liverpool striker then took the spot-kick, but his effort lacked conviction and Seaman was able to keep the ball out. Before anyone could say justice had been done, though, Irish midfielder Jason McAteer followed up and stabbed in the rebound. But while the record books tell of a 2-1 triumph for Liverpool, history will forever recall Fowler's fair-minded intentions.

The England international may well have inspired another instinctive finisher too. In addition to his adidas Golden Shoe for heading the scoring charts at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, Germany striker Miroslav Klose ought to possess a medal for sheer honesty. While still a Werder Bremen player in May 2005, he won a penalty he felt was undeserved against Arminia Bielefeld and told the referee as much. So far so Fowler, but the current Bayern Munich ace was clearly more persuasive than his English predecessor and persuaded the man in black to relent.

Everton anthem at Anfield
The most poignant stories often spring from tragic incidents, and that was certainly the case on two occasions in England last year. Once again, Liverpool was the site for one of them, following the death of 11-year-old Everton fan Rhys Jones, shot dead while travelling home from football practice. In an unprecedented tribute, the Reds agreed to play their bitter rivals' signature tune over the Anfield tannoy before a UEFA Champions League qualifier against Toulouse on 28 August 2007.

In a sorry coincidence, Leicester's Clive Clarke suffered cardiac failure during half-time of his side's Carling Cup tie at Nottingham Forest on the same day. The two teams chose to abandon the game, which the hosts were winning 1-0, and arranged to meet again a month later, when, to general surprise, the Leicester players let Forest goalkeeper Paul Smith walk through their ranks and score immediately after kick-off. "We thought it was the only thing to do," explained Foxes' manager Gary Megson afterwards. "The previous match ended in dramatic circumstances but the rules say Forest had to start the match at 0-0." This sporting attitude paid off too, as Leicester eventually won the tie 3-2.

A similar incident resulted in the death of Hungarian striker Miklos Feher while playing for Benfica in January 2004. The club retired the No29 shirt in his honour, but that number reappeared on an emotional night in November 2006, when Celtic visited the Stadium of Light for a UEFA Champions League encounter. More than two years after the tragedy, Celtic supporters displayed a banner featuring the number 29 and an inscription in Portuguese that read: 'Feher: Nunca caminharas sozinho' (Feher: You'll never walk alone). Visibly touched, Benfica's players clearly appreciated the sentiment. "It was an unforgettable moment and a magnificent gesture," said Portuguese international striker Nuno Gomes. "A real example of fair play."

Celtic lost that match 3-0 and, while none of these examples directly resulted in so much as a single point for the teams and players involved, all deserve to be remembered for keeping the true spirit of the game alive.