The Best FIFA Fair Play Award: nominees in focus
We take a closer look at the nominees for the FIFA Fair Play Award
The Denmark national team, its medics and coaching staff have been nominated for their response to Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest
Claudio Ranieri’s respect and Scott Brown’s special gesture have also been recognised
FIFA’s oldest accolade is the Fair Play Award, which existed even before the World Player Gala was introduced. This award underlines the importance that football’s world governing body attaches to fairness and sportsmanship. Another trio of remarkable individuals, teams and good deeds have been nominated for this year’s FIFA Fair Play Award. Let us introduce you to the candidates to help you decide who should receive this prestigious accolade.
Denmark national team, medics and coaching staff
This was an incident that was beamed around the world. When Christian Eriksen slumped to the ground during the UEFA EURO 2020 match between Denmark and Finland on 12 June 2021, time seemed to stand still for a few seconds. The Danish superstar lay motionless on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest. The players around him immediately noticed his dramatic fall and called for medical assistance. Several agonising minutes followed as medics battled to save Eriksen’s life.
The Denmark players, many of them in tears, shielded their team-mate to prevent anyone from watching while he was being resuscitated. Captain Simon Kjaer, who intervened instantly after realising the severity of the situation, and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel also comforted Eriksen’s partner during what must have been several of the worst minutes of her life. After the match, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said: "It was a really tough evening, one on which we’ve all been reminded what the most important things in life are. It’s meaningful relationships. It’s those people who are close to us. It’s family and friends. I could not be more proud of this team, who take good care of each other."
A gentleman through and through who always conducts himself impeccably, these qualities could now earn Claudio Ranieri the FIFA Fair Play Award. Before taking over as Watford manager in October 2021, the Italian was in charge at Sampdoria, where he gave Inter Milan the very special honour of a pasillo. Ahead of the match between Sampdoria and Inter, the visitors from Genoa paid tribute to the newly-crowned Serie A champions by forming a corridor of players as they stepped onto the pitch. This "guard of honour" is a long-standing tradition in English football but is also a common sight in Spain, where it is known as a pasillo de honor.
Did you know? Ranieri received a hero’s welcome on his return to the King Power Stadium. On 28 November the Italian travelled with Watford to Leicester for a Premier League match, his first visit as an opposition coach since leaving the club in 2017. Ranieri won the Premier League with the Foxes in 2016, despite the odds on such a triumph being set at 5000:1 at the start of the season. While Ranieri was greeted with a standing ovation when he emerged from the tunnel before the game, he ultimately left empty-handed as his team lost 4-2.
Scottish midfielder Scott Brown offered emphatic proof that football is not just about success, tactics and on-pitch battles, but humanity, solidarity and respect too. Brown, who ended his tenure as Celtic captain at the end of last season, sought out Finland international Glen Kamara before the Old Firm derby against Rangers after the midfielder was racially abused earlier that week in the second leg of his side’s UEFA Europa league Round of 16 tie against Slavia Prague. Did you know? Brown once again demonstrated his sense of sportsmanship when his nomination was announced. "Let’s get it right: all I did was show my respect and support to an opponent who had been disgracefully abused just a few days earlier," he told the Daily Record. "I was sickened by the incident so shaking his hand was the least I could do.
"It was nothing more than a bit of human decency for someone who deserved to know we were all on his side. But the Danish lads were staring catastrophe in the face on that day in Copenhagen. What they did went way above an act of decency, it was truly heroic. Let’s just say, if I had a vote, I’d be giving it to all of them."