Skip to main content

The great acts of sporting fair play

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa was commended for his decision to allow Aston Villa to score an unopposed equaliser in a contentious 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Sunday.

Mateusz Klich opened the scoring after Leeds had refused to kick the ball out of play despite Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia lying prone in midfield.

Argentinian coach Bielsa instructed his players to let their opponents walk in an equaliser from the restart, with Albert Adomah tapping home.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some previous examples of fair play:

Paolo Di Canio

See more

Controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio endeared himself to the British public with his memorable act of sportsmanship while playing for West Ham in a Premier League clash at Everton in December 2000. Home goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying on the ground injured when an unmarked Di Canio, 33 at the time, was picked out in the area by team-mate Trevor Sinclair. But, instead of putting the ball into an empty net to give the Hammers a 2-1 lead, Di Canio opted to catch it and allow Gerrard to receive treatment. It earned Di Canio a FIFA Fair Play award.

Robbie Fowler

Robbie Fowler’s penalty was saved by Davis Seaman but Jason McAteer scored the rebound

Robbie Fowler’s penalty was saved by David Seaman but Jason McAteer scored the rebound (Sean Dempsey/PA)

In March 1997, Fowler was awarded a penalty at Highbury after being brought down by Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman. Liverpool striker Fowler urged referee Gerald Ashby to change his mind as he had tripped and fallen over. Fowler’s spot-kick was saved by Seaman but Jason McAteer was alert to slot in the rebound and put the Merseysiders 2-0 up. Liverpool went on to win the game 2-1. Speaking about the incident in 2015, Fowler claimed he had not missed on purpose. He said: “Two good things came out of it for me. I helped Jason score his first ever Liverpool goal and I got a fair play certificate from UEFA so it wasn’t a bad day – and we ended up with the win as well. I didn’t miss the penalty on purpose, it was just a bad penalty, but they all are when you don’t score them.”

Alistair Brownlee

See more

There was a dramatic conclusion to the World Triathlon Series in Mexico in September 2016 when Alistair Brownlee came to the aid of exhausted younger brother Jonny and helped him over the finish line. Jonny needed to win the race and hope Spaniard Mario Mola finished no higher than fourth. That looked set to happen until searing heat took its toll. With Jonny starting to wobble, Alistair – third at the time – came to his rescue, putting his arm around him and all but carrying him along the final few hundred metres and across the line. South African Henri Schoeman won the race, with Mola winning the title. Alistair told the BBC: “It was a natural human reaction to my brother but for anyone I would have done the same thing. I think it’s as close to death as you can be in sport.”

MS Dhoni

Ian Bell (left) and Eoin Morgan wait for the decision on the controversial run out

Ian Bell (left) and Eoin Morgan wait for the decision on the controversial run out (Rui Vieira/PA)

During the third day of England’s second Test against India at Trent Bridge in July 2011, Ian Bell was run out on 137 having left the crease before the ball was dead. Bell and partner Eoin Morgan were under the impression the ball had reached the boundary, but following an appeal by India, it was determined it had not and Bell was out. Andrew Strauss, captain at the time, and coach Andy Flower visited India’s dressing room during the tea break and asked MS Dhoni, India’s captain, if the decision could be overturned. He put it to the rest of his team and they agreed that Bell could resume after the break. Rahul Dravid said at the time: “There was a feeling of unanimity that we should reinstate Bell because the spirit of the game was important.”

Harry Forrester

See more

Forrester is unlikely to ever hit a ball more sweetly. Playing for Doncaster in August 2015, the forward tried to return the ball to Bury goalkeeper Christian Walton after the latter had knocked it out of play due to an injury. His attempted pass sailed 40 yards over the keeper’s head and into the net, giving Rovers the lead in stoppage time. Doncaster boss Paul Dickov urged the match officials to disallow the goal, but when that failed he ordered his players to allow Leon Clarke a free run at goal to equalise. Forrester later tweeted: “Apologies to Bury for the shank. I haven’t got that placement from 40 yards I can assure you. Totally accidental.” A similar incident also occurred during a League Cup clash between Yeovil and Plymouth in 2004 when Lee Johnson lobbed Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick from 50 yards.