Integrity and Respect in Football (Soccer)

I love how Al G says respect, really, but I want to take a look at some aspects of football (soccer) that might not get enough attention, and that’s players and teams who encapsulate integrity, and have shown respect to their clubs, teams, and teammates in a unique manner in today’s sports world.

Often, these are players or teams that shun the spotlight, or money, and or fame at times, out of respect to their team.

For instance, I’m glad Tevez joined Manchester United, because I like to see great players play, and if he’s not on a top team he doesn’t get to play as much on TV or in the Champions League. But imagine if he stayed at West Ham. He’s loved already for securing their top flight status, with a goal against Manchester Untied and his overall hustle and flow the last few weeks of the season, but what if he stayed. He might have become a deity at West Ham and a statue erected in his honor.  He could have helped build West Ham into a club like Man U–maybe.

Then there’s Robbie Keane, who scored a hat trick against his old team, Wolves, when he joined Tottenham Hotspurs, but didn’t do his usual charmingly awkward flip celebration –out of respect.

And there’s Juventus and AC Milan, both teams have a host of players who have stayed on the team for a number of years. Juventus, the historic Italian club, where last season the majority of players stayed with the team even though they were dropped down to the second division. A surprising move in this day and age – was there a promise of a reward if they did stay?

The Turin club, demoted from the Italian first division last year because of a match-fixing scandal, top the Serie B standings with 82 points. With three games left in the season, Juventus cannot be caught by third-place Napoli — the top two teams in Serie B win automatic promotion to Serie A next season.

The Turin club returns to Serie A despite being saddled with a nine-point deduction at the start of the campaign as a result of a match-fixing verdict, which came after former general manager Luciano Moggi was found guilty of tampering with the selection of referees for his team’s games.

Juventus’s demotion led to the departure of many of their stars:

• French defender Lilian Thuram.
• Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta.
• French midfielder Patrick Vieira.
• Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
• Italian national team captain Fabio Cannavaro.

Manager Fabio Capello also left to join Real Madrid.

Several key players stayed, though:

• Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
• Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved.
• Del Piero.
• Trezeguet, who helped the club win promotion back to Serie A at the first attempt.

And, there are players like Henrik Larsen and Ole Gunner Solskjaer, is it a coincidence that both of these players are from Scandinavian, Larsen from Sweden and Ole from Norway?

Larsen helps Man U secure a league title, but opts to return to his old club. Ole helps Man U secure numerous titles and Champions League winners, always showing up and scoring meaningful goals.

Furthermore, many players return to the club where they started. Give something back. Veron, the Argentinean midfielder, goes back to his Argentina.  Who’s on your list of players or teams with class?