The Sportsmanship of Paolo Di Canio

The Sportsmanship of Paolo Di Canio

There's plenty of horrible stuff going on in the world right now. Which is why football - and the joy, humour and escapism it can bring - is more important than ever.

So over the next few weeks, we'll be digging into the archives to remember some of the game's most heart-warming, life-affirming and funny moments.

Today we're looking back to December 2000 and a fairly innocuous fixture between Everton and West Ham - but a match that was lit up by the sportsmanship of a certain Paolo Di Canio.




Now, we know the Italian has held some pretty dubious political views and it's fair to say he wasn't a saint on the pitch.

But, for a moment at least, let's focus instead on an act of incredible sporting integrity.




With the score locked at 1-1 and the clock ticking towards 90 minutes, Everton keeper Paul Gerrard raced from his goal only to collapse injured outside his penalty area.




The ball was floated into the box towards Di Canio, who, it seemed, had the chance to head into an empty net.

Instead though, West Ham's number 10 caught the ball so that Gerrard could receive treatment.




"It was the most fantastic bit of sportsmanship I've ever seen," said Irons manager Harry Redknapp afterwards (through gritted teeth).

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when he did but if the lad had a bad injury he did the right thing."




Di Canio received a round of applause from the Everton fans and was presented with the FIFA Fair Play Award by Gerrard before the reverse fixture in March 2001.

Hammers defender Stuart Pearce wasn't so impressed, though.

"Stuart Pearce comes thundering into the dressing room and says ‘don’t let me near him, I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him, I’m going to rip his head off."

– Recalled Redknapp, years later.


But despite Pearce's fury, Di Canio's sportsmanship that December afternoon remains one of the Premier League's most iconic moments – an unpredictable act of kindness from one of the game’s most unpredictable stars.





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