FIFA explain decision to award Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United Fair Play award

Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa were awarded FIFA's Fair Play award on Monday evening at the governing bodies annual awards.

By Joe Urquhart
Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 12:58 pm
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

The Whites were handed the gong for Bielsa's actions during the controversial 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in April.

United took the lead in the 72nd minute through Mateusz Klich as the midfielder continued playing on with Jonathan Kodjia down injured in the centre circle.

The goal sparked a mass melee between the two sides with Anwar El Ghazi seeing red following an altercation with Whites striker Patrick Bamford.

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Bielsa then allowed Dean Smith's side to score unopposed to level up proceedings, and FIFA have now recognised the act of sportsmanship by handing the club an award.

FIFA explained their decision in a statement: "Some residents of planet football consider winning the ultimate.

"The only purpose of playing the sport. For others though, there are values which need to be held even higher than those which bring victory.

"In April 2019, Marcelo Bielsa and the Leeds United squad were chasing automatic promotion to the English Premier League – a promised land that the side had been chasing since their relegation from the top flight in 2004.

"They faced Aston Villa, and went 1-0 up. However, Mateusz Klich’s goal was scored while a Villa player lay injured. Bielsa ordered his side to allow the opposition to equalise.

"The game finished 1-1, ultimately allowing their promotion rivals Sheffield United to guarantee their automatic spot in the Premier League, at Leeds’ expense.

"At the season’s conclusion, Leeds remained in the division after failing to gain promotion via the play-offs.

"What was at stake makes Bielsa’s act all the more remarkable, with the Argentinean coach and his side receiving the 2019 FIFA Fair Play Award for his side’s commendable act of sportsmanship."

Club captain Liam Cooper was in attendance to collect the award on the club's behalf with fitness coach Benoit Delaval.

The Frenchman read a statement on behalf of his boss.

"I want to think FIFA and Leeds United and their fans, who did not question my actions," he said.

"They could have claimed that I had to respect the ruling of the official.

"When choosing how to act, the most difficult thing is not to distinguish between right or wrong, but to accept the consequences of doing what corresponds."