We should all welcome and celebrate the announcement of the nominations for the prestigious FIFA Fair Play Award, which include the Danish national team, who courageously formed a protective shield around Christian Eriksen following his collapse, but I worry – do we make enough of this important award?
Do we allow it to be overshadowed by other awards when it seems to encapsulate the very essence of the beautiful game?
Let me explain!
Cast your mind back to the summer and the delayed Euro 2020. On Saturday 12th June, Denmark took on Finland, in what promised to be one of the matches of the tournament. But then tragedy nearly struck. Christian Eriksen, one of the best known and likeable footballers in the game, collapsed.
It was later revealed that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and had it not been for the skill and immediate presence of a fully equipped medical team, he may well have died. During the tense and emotional minutes of his life-saving treatment, which were broadcast live, his teammates formed a protective screen around him and comforted his wife, in an impressive display of camaraderie.
I remember at the time, being singularly impressed by this simple, yet powerful, act, which seemed to express the core values of the game – teamwork, sportsmanship, friendship, respect, decency, and humanity.
I must point out the other nominees at this point. Scott Brown – for his Old Firm show of support with Glen Kamara after racial abuse of the Rangers player and Claudio Ranieri for his Sampdoria side giving Inter Milan a guard of honour in May, following the club’s first Serie A title in 11 years.
All of them would be worthy winners. Yet, the reality is that on the night the recipient of this award will be overshadowed by the Best FIFA Men’s Player Award.
In fact, the recipient of all the other awards – Best Women’s Player, Best Men’s Coach, Best Women’s Coach, Best Fan, and so forth – will be to some degree overshadowed by the winner of this category.
I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is.
The amazing deeds and performances of them all, either not reported, or reduced to a few lines in a much bigger piece, as the winner of the Best Men’s Player, inadvertently hogs the media spotlight.
Now, there are those that justify this because of the size and impact of the men’s game. But, this excuse seems lazy. Surely, we want to promote, not just the most skilled men’s players, but the most skilled women’s players and those who set an exceptionally high standard of behaviour?
This is why, I argue that FIFA must redouble efforts to secure more equal reporting – must use its organisational muscle to secure more coverage for the other worthy winners, or must change the format of how the awards are announced.
Going forward, I want to read about or listen to news about the Best Women’s Player, the Best Coach, and yes, the recipient of the Fair Play Award.