With its dismal human rights record, it's not often that Uzbekistan is rewarded for its fair play.
But the country's soccer federation has just won the 2012 FIFA Fair Play Award, awarded by the international soccer federation.
The award is annually given in recognition of good behavior, not only by players on the pitch but also by fans.
According to FIFA, the award was a result of the good behavior of the national team and the country's clubs participating in Asian Football Confederation tournaments.
According to the FIFA website, the Uzbekistan Football Federation was nominated as "the clubs and national teams of Uzbekistan collected the most fair play points in the Asian Football Confederation in 2012."
"Points are awarded or deducted on the basis of red and yellow cards received, positive play, respect towards opponents and the referee, and the conduct of the officials as well as of the crowd," FIFA said.
The other two nominees were the Guatemalan Football Federation and the Turkish team Eskisehirspor.
The award was handed over at the annual Ballon d’Or Gala in Zurich on January 7 to the head of the Uzbek Football Federation, Mirabrar Usmanov.
“We are more responsible to protect the spirit of fair play,” Usmanov said. “Fair play, friendship, and respect to the opponents are what we need to teach our players. Inside the field they are opponents but once they leave the field they are Asian colleagues who try to promote the game throughout the globe.”
Uzbek soccer has gone through something of a renaissance in recent years, in particular with the rise of Tashkent club Bunyodkor
, which once could name Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari as its coach and former Brazilian superstar Rivaldo as a player.
In 2009, the club reportedly paid
soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo over $800,000 for a one-day visit.
Bunyodkor has been tied to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the Uzbek president.
-- Luke Allnutt