According to FIFA, fair play is a fundamental part of the game of soccer. It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense and respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans. Fair play is awarded in many ways, and Italy is experimenting a new initiative that may be successful in promoting correctness and sportsmanship on the pitch.
Italian soccer players are now able to get a special kind of recognition from the referees, consisting of a "green card" to acknowledge fair play actions during the game. Green cards can be earned for gestures, such as sending a ball out of bounds to stop play when a player is injured; helping the referee making a correct call and admitting to having taken a dive in order to win a penalty kick.
Serie B, Italy's second-highest professional soccer league, was the theatre of the first experiment. At the beginning of October, during Vicenza-Virtus Entella match, Vicenza attacker Cristian Galano received the first green card, when he admitted that no Virtus Entella defenders had touched the ball when referee Marco Mainardi had incorrectly called for a corner kick.
"It's a symbolic award," league president Andrea Abodi said. "It could be something very simple. The important thing is to recognise it when a professional does something exemplary. We need to provide good examples - because clearly, they're lacking lately", referring to a recent match-fixing scandal that rocked the league at the beginning of the season. "We think that football needs positive messages," another Serie B spokesman added.
"This sport is too often embroiled in controversies that drives people away from the stadiums." Now, at the end of the season, the players with the most green cards will receive some sort of award. If the initiative proves successful in implementing fair play, it is likely that Serie A or other leagues around the world would adopt the green card.