Fair play reigns at Jordan 2016
This FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup has already proved memorable for its spectacular goals, flowing football and exciting, emerging stars. However, this tournament has also been marked out by the spirit of fair play with which these young footballers have conducted themselves.
As this year's FIFA Fair Play Day is celebrated on 17 October, and will be marked at today's Jordan 2016 semi-finals, FIFA.comspoke to some of the players at these finals to discuss what the concept means to them.
"Fair play to me is just a standard of respect between players, no matter where you come from, no matter what language you speak," said Hannah Blake, scorer a hat-trick for New Zealand against Jordan in the Kiwis' final game here. "It's about being able to enjoy the game without any negativity."
This power to unify that football and fair play was also seized upon by Eni Kuchambi. As the Cameroon captain rightly reflected, there is always much more that binds than divides even the fiercest of football rivals. "Just because you are playing against someone does not mean you are enemies," said Kuchambi. "You can always say to each other, 'We are together, we have one passion and we will both do our best.' There will always be a winner and a loser but fair play is a barrier to conflict, to rudeness and also to racism."
For the vast majority of players at this tournament, it seems that this behaviour and these attitudes come naturally. Many, in fact, seem to have learned the importance of fair play as children, with Spain's Laia Aleixandri one such example. “I experienced it in a game when I was little," she recalled. "We won 6-0 and the keeper of our opponents was completely downhearted after our sixth goal, so I went to her, helped her to her feet and tried to cheer her up."
Sportsmanship stressedWhat has also been apparent is that these same principles are just as important to the coaches in Jordan. When England's John Griffiths, for example, reflected on his team's campaign, he was just as proud of his charges' sportsmanship in consoling beaten opponents and congratulating Japan, the team that eliminated them, as he was of their performances.
"The girls have shown a lot of class and humility throughout this tournament," he said. "When I saw the way they approached the Brazilian players at full-time, I couldn't have been prouder."
Griffiths also lauded his team's conquerors as being in the same mould, claiming that England's youngsters responded admiringly "to the Japanese players' behaviour as much as to the quality of football they produced". Such praise was music to the ears of the Little Nadeshiko's captain, Fuka Nagano, who stressed that the reigning champions seek not only to win, but to win the right way.
"We are committed and determined to get the result we want, but we always respect our opponents and genuinely appreciate fair play too," she said. "I think that shows when we were are out on the field."
Indeed it does, and not only with the reigning champions. Throughout this tournament, among teams from every continent, the embracing of fair play has acted an example to all.