10 Most Touching Moments in World Football History

Max TowleAnalyst IMay 8, 2013

10 Most Touching Moments in World Football History

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    Football can be an incredibly touching game at times—just look at the outpouring of emotion following Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to retire as manager of Manchester United today.

    There is a history of good sportsmanship, honesty, incredible acts of fair play and tributes.

    This article will pick 10 of the most touching moments in football—highlighting the best aspects of the sport we love.

Di Stefano Gives His Shirt to Eusebio

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    In the 1962 European Cup final, Benfica beat Real Madrid 5-3 in a game for the ages.

    Real led 3-2 at one point, but a thunderous brace from the Portuguese side's burgeoning youngster, Eusebio, turned the game around.

    At the final whistle, Alfredo Di Stefano gave his shirt to his rival, signifying a true passing of the torch.

    Since then, Eusebio has always claimed that the Argentine's shirt is his most prized possession—a symbol of how touched he was by the honour.

Athletic and Sociedad Unite for Freedom

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    Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have historically been sworn rivals.

    The two Basque clubs have fought each other tooth-and-nail for local bragging rights over the years, but in 1976, the rivalry was put to one side.

    Spain was still under a fascist cloud at the time. It was illegal to speak Basque or Catalan or even raise either region's flag.

    However, that's what the players from both clubs did in their first meeting of the 1976/77 season, prompting cheers and tears from a delighted and unified crowd. 

Petrov Returns to Villa Park

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    In March last year, Aston Villa's beloved midfielder Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

    Since then, the Bulgarian has taken indefinite leave from the Midlands club to fight the devastating condition.

    On his return to Villa Park to watch his team take on Chelsea, the fans gave Petrov a standing ovation during the 19th minute—his shirt number.

    Since then, away fans have joined in the tradition, proving that a man's health is more important than any rivalry. 

Iniesta Wins It for Dani Jarque

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    When Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final, his celebration was one of pure emotion.

    The attacking midfielder lifted up his shirt to reveal a message that said "Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros"—or "Dani Jarque: always with us."

    Espanyol captain Jarque had died of a cardiac arrest after a preseason training session three years earlier.

    Iniesta's moving tribute to his countryman could not have come on a bigger stage. 

Jimmy Glass Saves Carlisle United

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    With stoppage time fast running out on the final day of the season and Carlisle United needing to score to stay in the Football League, an unlikely hero stepped up.

    The Blues were tied 1-1 with Plymouth when on-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass rifled home possibly the most dramatic goal ever.

    Fans instantly rushed the field, swamping the hero and eventually carrying him off the field on their shoulders.

    Glass calls the moment the greatest moment of his life. Who could argue with that? 

Kahn Consoles Canizares

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    In claiming the 2001 Champions League trophy, Bayern Munich vanquished the ghosts of 1999. The German side's players were naturally jubilant after the decisive penalty shootout.

    But Oliver Kahn, Bayern's goalkeeper, immediately moved to console a distraught Santiago Canizares, the defeated Valencia shot-stopper.

    The big German had a reputation as an uncompromising, tough nut during his career.

    His moment of sympathy earned him a fair play award, one that he proudly keeps alongside his other silverware. 

Eric Abidal's Remarkable Comeback

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    In March 2011, Eric Abidal underwent surgery to remove a tumour in his liver.

    The Barcelona defender made a remarkable recovery following the operation, and played the full 90 minutes in the Champions League final win over Manchester United a little over a month later.

    He was given the captain's armband for the game and allowed to lift the trophy as a mark of how well-loved he is by his teammates.

    The Frenchman has since had a liver transplant, but also fought his way back months later. 

Eduardo Scores on His Return

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    Eduardo's horrific leg break in February 2008 had some suggesting the Croatian would never play again.

    But almost a year later, the Arsenal forward made his long-awaited return in an FA Cup match against Cardiff City.

    What's more, he scored 20 minutes into the game—a goal that sparked a rush of emotion both for the player and for fans of the Gunners.

    Now at Shakhtar Donetsk, Eduardo nevertheless remains a fan favourite at the Emirates. 

Fabrice Muamba Comes Back from the Dead

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    For those who watched Bolton's Fabrice Muamba collapse during an FA Cup match with Tottenham in 2012, it must be considered a miracle that he is still alive today.

    The midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest early in the game—his heart stopping for an astounding 78 minutes.

    He was revived, though, with credit going to the White Hart Lane medical staff, and a cardiac consultant who was watching in the stands, for the attention he received.

    When it was revealed that Muamba would make a full recovery, the sense of relief in the footballing community was palpable.

Matt Busby Lifts the European Cup

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    A decade after Manchester United had been gutted by the devastating Munich Air Disaster that claimed the lives of seven players, the club won the biggest trophy in football.

    Matt Busby, the long-serving boss of the Red Devils, masterminded the rebuild and rejuvenation of the Reds.

    When he lifted the European Cup in 1968, his thoughts were on those who had been lost.

    United defender David Sadler later remarked (via FootballPantheon.com): "The boss looked very old, which he had never seemed. There was a sense that this was the end of something momentous and it was almost immediate."

    What other touching moments in football history might be worthy of making this list?