Tuesday 16 January 2024, 21:00

Brazilian men's national team win FIFA Fair Play Award reaffirming ‘NO to racism’ message

  • Brazil wore black in a June 2023 friendly against Guinea as a symbol of the fight against racism

  • Kit change was a show of solidarity with Vinicius Junior who had been targeted with racist abuse from inside stadiums, and online

  • FIFA Legend Cafu collected the FIFA Fair Play Award on behalf of the team

The Best FIFA Football Awards™ 2023 on Monday 15 January provided a stage for the global football community to deliver an unequivocal rejection of racism or any form of discrimination, on or off the pitch. The FIFA Fair Play Award was collected on behalf of the Brazilian team by FIFA Legend Cafu, after a gesture that will remain forever in the memory. On 17 June 2023, Brazil played Guinea in an international friendly match, wearing an all-black kit – a first in over a century of the men’s national team – during the opening 45 minutes. In doing so, the team wanted to send a clear message, whilst also displaying a show of unity in support of their teammate, Vinícius Júnior.

The FIFA Fair Play Award: Brazil men’s national team

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the Canarinha were appalled by the racist insults that the Real Madrid CF player had received throughout the La Liga season from fans inside stadiums, as well as via social media. Starting the match with all players taking a knee, they expressed a resounding message of ‘NO to racism’ before a ball was kicked. The forward, who wore Brazil's iconic number 10 in the game and scored his team's last goal in a 4-1 win, has inadvertently become the latest figurehead in this ‘fight.’ Speaking on stage, Cafu addressed the audience and those following online. “Racism is unacceptable. Football is one of the best tools in the world for social inclusion. We will use this tool to educate people to live in a world of equality” he said.

Vinicius Junior of Brazil takes a knee in support of anti-racism prior to an International Friendly match between Brazil and Guinea at Stage Front Stadium

This now historic decision to change the colour of their kit was fully supported by FIFA at the time, as evidenced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino's visit to Brazil's training camp two days before the friendly. The FIFA President met with Vinícius Júnior, the Brazilian national team, and the President of the Brazilian Football Confederation, Ednaldo Rodrigues, reinforcing the message that matches should be stopped if persistent discriminatory abuse occurs.

"With regard to racism and discrimination, it is very important that, in addition to talking about it, we act decisively and convincingly: zero tolerance. FIFA stands with the Brazilian Football Confederation and all players in this fight. It is important to establish sporting sanctions, and I congratulate the CBF for having already done so," said Gianni Infantino after the meeting in Barcelona, Spain. The FIFA President also explained to the members of the Brazilian national team the introduction of the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) during the FIFA World Cup 2022™ to protect players from hate speech and cyber-bullying, a service that was also implemented during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™.

Also making the final three of FIFA Fair Play Award shortlisted nominees were Dutch referee Pol van Boekel, and Uruguayan U-16 boys team Montevideo City Torque.

A FIFA referee since 2008, Van Boekel did not show a yellow card to Ajax Amsterdam’s Mohammed Kudus when he scored against Sparta Rotterdam and removed his shirt, displaying a tribute to his Ghana international teammate Christian Atsu, who had been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February 2023.

The Dutch official was applauded for his action in ‘ignoring’ Article 12.1 of the Laws of the Game which states: ‘A player must be cautioned for (...) removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt.’ “I decided to do it because it means a lot to me. I learnt a lot from watching him. He also regularly gave me tips," said Kudus, explaining the significance of his gesture after the final whistle. "The referee said it wasn't allowed, but he understood the situation. I'm grateful to him for that and I respect him a lot."

Montevideo City Torque coach Mathias Segredo and his players were nominated for their actions after scoring a goal during a game against Boston River in a Uruguayan youth league game. In the move leading to their goal, two opposing defenders had collided heavily with each other, leaving both with head injuries. "I told my players that we were not going to feel good if we won the game like that. For me, the right thing to do was to let them [Boston River] score a goal immediately after. The decision was made by all of us," he told FIFA.com Inside.

"This acknowledgement [i.e. the nomination] strengthens the message that if you do things right, someone rewards you. It’s a message we are keen to pass on. Football is also an educational tool. The value of life is always more important than the sporting result.” The winner of the FIFA Fair Play Award is selected by a panel of experts representing both FIFA and external football stakeholders. The award is given in recognition of honourable conduct of fair play such as: - playing according to the rules and promoting the Laws of the Game - and/or respect teammates, opponents, match officials and/or supporters; - and/or act against discrimination