FIFA Fair Play.

Before every international match under the auspices of FIFA, you see the teams enter the field, sometimes escorted by children and led to the center of the field before kickoff. Behind the players there will be a large yellow flag with the insignia of the FIFA Fair Play for all to see.

Ever wonder what that means? I mean, it’s just some slogan on a flag.
I had occasion to visit FIFA House in Zurich recently and learned that the Fair Play motto extends to virtually every aspect of the game and serves as the foundation of commitment to the game at all levels. “It is FIFA’s mission to ensure that the good image of football is always maintained throughout the world. Special attention is paid to promoting the concept of Fair Play, with a world-wide campaign aimed at education and ethical values, including the fight against racism and attempted corruption in football.”

In order to strive toward these lofty goals, FIFA has 10 statements of fair play that, on the surface, might seem obvious, but look closer and one can see that almost every week, some aspect of fair play is tempted. And these tenants are not mutually exclusive; there are interconnected in every aspect of the game. You can’t pick and chose. For the good of the game, all connected to soccer are to abide by them all.

1. Play to win. This might seem obvious, but there are circumstances that might have 1 or more players on a team that might not be trying to win. There are circumstances where a team may play for a tie. But FIFA implores to play always to win. Anything less shows disrespect to the game.

2. Play fair. Again, an obvious consideration. But haven’t you seen a player’s jersey pulled? The professional foul? A player writhing on the ground?

3. Observe the Laws of the Game. Play within the laws as they are set down and don’t try to stretch an interpretation. I saw a U10 game once. After this one team took a shot, 5 players stood, fingertip-to-fingertip, across the top of the penalty box forming a gauntlet for the coming goal kick. Now for this age, a goal kick is quite a challenge. Yes, this team observed the Laws, but ignored the statement against unsportsmanlike conduct.

4. Respect opponents, teammates, referees, officials and spectators. Ever see one player spit at another? Gesture at the ref once the back is turned? Curse at the opposition? Make obscene gestures to the crowd? Of course you have.

5. Accept defeat with dignity. This was very visible at the World Cup this year. Practically every team left the field with their heads held up. The image of the US team after their loss to Germany was a great statement of this.

6. Promote the interests of football. If it is good for the game, within these 10 guidelines, then promote.

7. Reject corruption, drugs, racism, violence and other dangers to our sport. For the most part, soccer has been resistant to drug use when compared to other major sports like cycling, cross country skiing, American football, baseball, ice hockey and others, but racism and violence are still problems, particularly in the stands. Thankfully, the issue of corruption is rare.

8. Help others to resist corrupting pressures. The financial state of the game is somewhat precarious is some countries and there might be outside pressures that could damage the game. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep corruption out of the game.

9. Denounce those who attempt to discredit our sport. Luckily in the US, the people who denounce our sport are usually uninformed media out to make some waves. I liked the survey prior to the 94 World Cup here in the US that said two-thirds of the country didn’t even know it was being held. So? That meant there were 80-90 million who did! Did you realize that in 2002, the US was the second largest country participating (to China) with the 2nd most participants (to Brazil). Speak your mind and defend our sport without taking the defensive stance that the anti-soccer media loves.

10. Honor those who defend football’s good reputation. This begins with your teammates, and extends to parents, coaches, refs, local, state, national and international administrators. It’s the only game the world plays and it is our duty to protect it.

Copyright © 2003 Donald T. Kirkendall

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