The 5 Most Controversial Goal Celebrations in Soccer History
Goal celebrations can live long in the memory.
People will still be asking Peter Crouch for dancing tips long after he’s retired from football.
Then there’s the Icelandic team, Stjarnan, who have made a name for themselves solely based on their carefully-choreographed, post goal-scoring antics.
Whether it’s to make a political statement, to hit back at past criticisms, or because they just got too caught up in the moment, some players can take things a little too far.
Occasionally footballers will find that they, and their celebrations, are remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Here’s a video rundown of the most controversial goal celebrations ever.
5. Paulo Diogo–Giving the Finger
The actual celebration you will see in this video is not, in itself, controversial.
It is the referee’s reaction to it that has left people rather surprised.
When Paulo Diogo set up a goal for Servette FC teammate Jean Beausejour on December 5, 2004, he naturally celebrated.
This took the form of a leap onto the metal fence between the fans and the pitch.
Having celebrated with the fans, Diogo jumped back down again. Unfortunately, his wedding ring had become caught on the fence.
When he landed back on the ground, Diogo realized that most of his finger had ripped off, along with his wedding ring.
The controversy was caused by the referee who then proceeded to show Diogo a yellow card for time wasting.
I’m not sure whether Diogo would have considered helping stewards search for his missing finger a “waste of time,” though.
4. Emmanuel Adebayor–100 Yard Dash
This guy could give Usain Bolt a run for his money
Adebayor is another player to have received a yellow card for an over-the-top celebration.
However, unlike in the previous case, this one was justified.
After scoring against his former club, Arsenal, for Manchester City in 2009, Adebayor sprinted the entire length of the pitch to celebrate his goal.
In front of Arsenal’s traveling fans, no less.
They had, in all fairness, been sending a relentless torrent of abuse Adebayor’s way for the entire match.
But the gunner’s supporters naturally went ballistic at what they perceived to be a lack of class, when most footballers choose not to celebrate at all against their former clubs.
Adebayor duly received a yellow card for excessive celebration and later had to answer an FA charge for his reckless behavior.
Reckless, because there was no need to stir up the already volatile atmosphere of a football stadium, where it can only take a spark to ignite something more serious than verbal abuse.
In addition to the above incident, Adebayor received a three-game ban for stamping on Robin van Persie in the same game.
3. Paul Gascoigne–the Dentist Will See You Now
Gazza was renowned for his moderation
Throughout his career, “Gazza” was in the news more for what he did off the field than on it.
This celebration, acted out after scoring a wonderful goal against Scotland at the 1996 Euro, was a response to a news story.
Before the 1996 European Championship, the media reported on a night out in Hong Kong where Gazza had sampled a Dentist’s Chair on a pre-tournament trip.
Not considering this suitable preparation for the first major football tournament to be held in England since 1966, there were calls from many for Gazza to be dropped from the squad.
However, in England’s second game, Gascoigne showed the brilliance that made him famous in the first place.
Flicking the ball over a stranded Colin Hendry with his left, then smashing a volley into the Scotland goal with his right, Gazza sprinted to the touchline, where team mates poured water down his throat while he lay on the turf.
After demonstrating such skill, this celebration was a firm thumbing of the nose to his detractors in the media.
Unfortunately for Gascoigne, the drinking he mocked during this infamous celebration caught up with him, ruining his career and his health.
A sad end to the career of one of the greatest natural footballing talents England has ever produced.
2. Fabian De La Mora & Alberto Medina: Going off Half-Cocked
Great goal, shame about the celebration
In Mexico, drug-related violence is reported to have claimed 44,000 lives.
So Chivas players de la Mora and Medina should have thought a little more carefully about their celebration last year, following de la Mora’s goal against Estudiantes.
After scoring the second goal of the game, de la Mora ran to the sideline, followed by Medina, pretended to take out a pistol, cocking it and shooting his teammate through the forehead.
Celebrations based on gangland executions would probably be pretty controversial the world over, but in Mexico this was unacceptable.
Chivas fined the players 50,000 pesos ($3,700) each for the stunt. Immediately issuing a statement of apology, the players paid double their fines.
With the club’s other players making large contributions, the team donated 1 million pesos ($78,000) to an orphanage in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in Mexico.
A controversial celebration, certainly. And a very expensive mistake.
1. Robbie Fowler: Cameroonian Grass Eating Celebration
See the goal and celebration from 0:20
A Liverpool legend, Robbie Fowler performed perhaps the most notorious goal celebrations ever.
After scoring a penalty against local rivals Everton, Fowler ran to the touchline, got onto all fours and mimed snorting up the white line like it was cocaine.
After the incident, Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier hilariously tried to provide an explanation of the celebration, saying that it was a “Cameroonian grass eating celebration” learned from a teammate.
Fowler later admitted, however, that it was aimed at Everton fans who had been accusing him of taking drugs.
Liverpool did not see the funny side however, fining the player £60,000. The English FA also showed their displeasure by giving the striker a four match ban.
In the modern era, where footballers are considered role models for young people all over the world, this kind of behaviour could never have been acceptable, and Fowler paid a hefty price for this ill-conceived celebration.
Fowler will always be remembered by Liverpool fans for the fantastic service he gave to the club throughout his career at Anfield.
But, for the rest of us, this most controversial of celebrations will be what Robbie Fowler is always renowned for.
Paul Merson enjoying a quiet drink
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Here are a few more controversial celebrations for which there are no videos, but still need to be mentioned.
Mark Bosnich and Paolo Di Canio
Both of these players have tarnished their reputations by offering inappropriate salutes to fans.
Bosnich made a Nazi salute to Tottenham fans (a club with a historically large Jewish fan base) whilst at Aston Villa.
He was fined £1,000 and charged by the FA for this highly insensitive gesture.
Di Canio also is remembered for offering Fascist salutes to the right wing fans whilst playing at Lazio. A self-confessed "Fascista," Di Canio made no apology for his actions and was fined and banned on occasions when having made the salute.
Another footballer with a drinking problem, Paul Merson celebrated Tony Adams’ FA Cup final winning goal by making drinking gestures at fans, in response to criticisms about his boozing habits.
Ipswich’s David Norris was fined £25,000 by his club for making a “handcuffs” gesture after scoring.
This was to show support to his friend and former Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick, who had been imprisoned for causing the deaths of two young boys while drunk-driving.
As well as the deserved fine, Norris made a personal apology to the parents of the children for his extremely ill-judged celebration.
Tim Cahill and Nicolas Anelka have also landed themselves in trouble for making similar gestures on other occasions.
Paul Gascoigne and Robbie Fowler (again)
As well as the previously mentioned incidents, both these players have performed other, controversial celebrations.
Fowler was fined 2,000 Swiss Francs ($2,200) by UEFA in 1999 for displaying a T-shirt showing support for sacked dock workers in a European match.
This was in breach of a UEFA rule banning players form displaying political slogans during games.
Another political controversy was committed by Gascoigne while playing for Rangers, against their rivals Celtic.
Old firm derbies are rife with sectarian problems, with the traditionally Protestant, loyalist Rangers fans coming up against Catholic Celtic supporters.
He mimed playing a flute, a loyalist symbol, in front of the Celtic crowd; a gesture for which he was fined £20,000 by his club for inflaming sectarian problems that exist to this day.
All of these footballers should have perhaps thought about their controversial celebrations and the effects they would have.
But with Gazza also receiving several IRA death threats for his actions maybe we, as fans, should also sometimes remember that football really is just a game.