David Silva is one of Manchester City’s most decorated players of all time and one of the greatest midfielders to grace the Premier League.
The diminutive Spaniard has won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup during a glittering nine-year spell with the Citizens.
Silva was also named as Manchester City’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2012 and has been named in more dream teams than you could shake a stick at. However, there is one award the 33-year-old won back in 2005, while on loan at Eibar, that you may not know about – the Pedro Zaballa award.
What is the Pedro Zaballa award?
Pedro Zaballa played for Barcelona-based side CE Sabadell between 1967 and 1970 and it was playing for the Catalan side that the forward pulled off one of the most incredible feats of sportsmanship the game has seen.
During a game with Real Madrid on November 2, 1969, Zaballa was presented with a wonderful opportunity to score when Los Blancos keeper, Andres Junquera, had been injured after clashing with teammate Francisco Espildora.
But instead of taking the chance to score, he hit the ball out of play and requested help for the injured players, prompting the 80,000-strong crowd to give Zaballa a standing ovation. He later received the 1969 Fair Play award.
When asked why he made such a generous action, he simply said: “Football is sport, not war.”
Over the years, this deed has inspired a number of acts of kindness, sportsmanship and genuine human decency in a sport that so often gets wrapped up in vicious rivalries. And in 1998, the Spanish Football Federation decided to give out a yearly award in Zaballa’s honour to reward such displays of compassion on the pitch.
When and why did David Silva win the award?
David Silva picked up the award in 2005 as an 18-year-old while on loan from Valencia at second division side, Eibar. During a promotion six-pointer, Silva was clean through on goal in injury time with the score tied at 1-1.
However, the midfielder noticed an opposition play down injured and rather than take the chance to score a vital goal for his side, he instead knocked the ball out for a throw-in.
Eibar’s manager at the time, Jose Mendilibar, said: “I didn’t say anything to him and neither did the other players. He kicked the ball out so the other player could receive treatment. Not many players would have done that and he was praised for his fair play.”
Who else has won it?
Silva is by no means the only high-profile recipient of the Pedro Zaballa award.
The first winner, or should we say, winners, were Atletico Madrid and Valencia supporters for their impeccable behaviour at the 1999 Copa del Rey final in Sevilla.
A year later it was won by Real Betis star Alfonso Perez for dramatically preventing a fan attacking a match official. During a national game between Spain and Yugoslavia, a fan attempted to accost the referee by running on to the pitch but he was prevented from reaching the official after Alfonso tackled him to the ground.
Manolo Hidalgo was given the award while representing Atletico Madrid B for practically copying the exact actions of Zaballa himself during a game with El Mensejaro.
Two players won the award in 2002. During a game between Celta Vigo and Deportivo in September 2001, Everton Giovanella badly injured Manuel Pablo Garcia. This robbed the latter of a potential place at the World Cup, yet due to the concern that Giovanella showed his opponent, they formed a good friendship and all was forgiven.
Barcelona President Joan Laporta received the award in 2004 for running a campaign against violence that saw him receive threats against his own safety.
José Ángel Ziganda, manager of Osasuna, was given the trophy in 2007 for defending the decision of a referee when many around him were losing their heads, a point he was quick to make after he described the official’s performance as “phenomenal”. His side finished the game against Atletico Madrid with seven players but rather than castigate the referee, he actually defended him.
“The referee has been phenomenal and I am saying it seriously,” he said after the match. “After the goal, when there were six or seven minutes left, we lost our nerves and we focused badly on the rage.”
More recently, the award was won by Andres Iniesta, perhaps the highest-profile winner since David Silva, to honour his career achievements with both Barcelona and the Spanish national team.
So there you have it. A window into an award that has embodied the positive traditions of sportsmanship in the game of football all started by Pedro Zaballa for one moment of genuine class.