Desmond Morris writes:
“Immediately following the scoring of a goal the Soccer Tribe explodes into one of its major expressions of joy – the Triumph Display. With their supporters roaring, dancing and clapping on the terraces, the Tribal Heroes celebrate their ‘kill’ in a frenzied outburst of abandoned leaping and embracing. It is a peak moment of tribal life and it is enjoyed to the full.”
Of course, this wildly theatrical display is not such a relatively modern practice as you might think, as it has its beginnings shortly after the Second World War. Before that, the captain would get a handshake or a pat on the back. Not these days. The older officials have been known to frown on this behaviour as they see it as unsportmanlike gloating over their vanquished opponents.
There are two phases of display, one by the goal scorer and the other as a response by his team-mates. I’ve had a look through my images from recent matches to find out if the following do, in fact, happen.
The Scoring sprint
The man who scores often takes off on a wild sprint usually with his mouth wide open. One reason for this is that the rapid movement removes any suggestion that the scorer is waiting for congratulations.
The Raised Arm
The goal scorer often turns away from the goalmouth and raises his arm vertically above his head, more of a salute to the crowd. There are three variations: a flat-handed version like a Roman ‘hail’, a tight-fist version, like a Communist or Black Panther salute, and the forefinger version, a single digit pointed to the heavens, signalling the number one – one more goal.
The running player suddenly leaps in the air with a raised fist and then strikes the air as if symbolically crashing down on the defeated heads of the enemy. This overarm downward striking punch is a basic attack movement of the human species.
Probably the most commonly seen triumph display. This has the effect of making the player taller and larger. This echoes most animal behaviour, and raises his status within the group.
Leaping with fists aloft
This action increases the scorers height twice over, adding about four feet to his height and is about as far as he can go to feel “ten feet tall”.
The War Dance
This is seen more in some of the Premier League clubs and in international matches. It can be any sort of movement, representing an outpouring of emotion. I haven’t seen this many times at any match I’ve been to since last season, but I’ve witnessed lots on the televised matches.
I can’t locate any images from the internet, but will keep looking! Often manifests itself as a silly dance. Not sure if this gleeful face-pulling falls into this category, but seems a good place for it.
The Back Tilt
The goal-scorer leans back from the knees and raises his fists, and contrasts strongly with the forward lowering of the defeated head and shoulders of the team who have just conceded a goal. Not seen this one recently, but I found one from last season.
Here’s one of Jose Mourinho doing something similar:
And a similar one by a player
The Embrace invitation
The players run towards each other with their arms outstretched.
The players meet and fling their arms around one another and hug tightly. The other team members start racing towards them.
As more players cluster together the throw their arms around one another’s shoulders and form a dense clump.
The first player to reach the scorer leaps up at him and embraces him with his arms and his leg, clasping him like a small child leaping at a parent. This often leads to the collapse of the scorer who topples onto the grass with the congratulator still clinging to him.
Like the previous one but performed from behind. The couple are likely to fall over backwards and rest on the ground in a confused heap.
The Horizontal Embrace
If the scorer collapses on the ground or is dragged down by his team mates, the hugging may continue on the grass and can look remarkably like a sexual encounter! However, the players are unaware of this accidental similarity.
The Gang Lift
The collapsed player may be lifted by his team-mates and then embraced as his body is dragged upwards.
Less shocking today, but players sometimes crown their embraces with a kiss. More associated with cultures in warmer climates, but more prevalent than it once was.
During clusters, its common to observe hair-ruffling of the kind normally seen between father and son. Sometimes the hair ruffle may occur as the only sign of congratulation as the scorer walks back past his team-mates.
A low intensity triumph display, not dissimilar to head-patting and is another fatherly action.
The High Five
Not part of Desmond Morris’s observations, but one I’ve seen quite often.
Even though more uninhibited actions occur, the polite Victorian handshake still exists. Its more often seen between players swapping at substitution moments.
And then, of course, there is always the triumph display that doesn’t fall into any of these categories. Don’t know what to make of this.
Other silly celebrations include running around with your shirt on your head (which can earn you a yellow card if you have some slogan underneath).
Players often pull their shirt off and wave it madly in the air, or do somersaults, seen here:
Or some very dubious exploits with the corner flag pole:
Cristiano Ronaldo has his own special “claw” celebration:
some even like to bounce across the turf on their bottom:
Even the Japanese teams are not immune.
It’s nice to be able to say that Desmond Morris’s observations are pretty accurate, and that it isn’t particularly difficult to find most instances in my archive. I shall be on the look out for the missing ones – it’s not that they haven’t occurred, but that I didn’t capture them! More celebration shots, Lads!
A final word of caution, since ‘excessive celebration’ can result in a yellow card.
According to the rules of the games (Law 12):
- While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.
In recent seasons, FIFA have attempted to crack down on some of the more enthusiastic celebrations. If a player incites the crowd and/or takes his shirt off after scoring a goal he is likely to get booked by the referee. This can cause huge controversy if the player has already been booked, since he would then be sent off. However, some players get around this rule by pulling the hem of their shirts over the head, without taking the shirt off entirely, but this is not always overturned by the referees. Some players were receiving fines for dropping their shorts after scoring. Also, jumping into the crowd is also a bookable offence (“deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission”, as identified in Law 12). There are other instances, e.g. in a 2009 Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal, City striker Emmanuel Adebayor received a yellow card for running the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal in front of the Arsenal fans. This was seen as controversial because Adebayor signed for Manchester City that summer from Arsenal.
There have been some strange behaviours which have resulted in a yellow (or even a red) card too:
In 1999, Robbie Fowler was also fined £60,000 by his club and the Premier League for having celebrated his penalty goal against Everton by getting down on all fours and miming the snorting of cocaine off of the white touchline, having been accused of drug abuse in the tabloid press. All balls, no brain.
In 2004, which seems like a lifetime ago, Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tévez was sent off when celebrating a goal against arch-rivals River Plate for imitating a chicken, clearly mocking the opposite crowd, in spite of not being booked previously.