Classic Goal Celebrations and the Stories Behind Them
Every football player and fan loves goals.
For the fans, it gives them a chance to scream at the top of their lungs and jump for joy. For the players within the moment, that feeling is magnified even further.
We can see that most clearly in the celebrations of players.
Some are full of delight; others are full of pure ecstasy and emotion. Some seemingly just come off the top of their head; others have clearly been thought out and have a little bit of added meaning behind them. Yet, whatever the celebration, all have a story to tell and a moment to relive.
Let's take a look at some of the more memorable goal celebrations as well as the infamous (or perhaps not-so-infamous) moments behind them as well.
Eric Cantona, Manchester United
(H) to Sunderland, EPL
21 December, 1996
Never one to stay away from the headlines, Eric Cantona had certainly made his presence felt at United in the year prior to 1996. Numerous red cards and his infamous kung-fu kick (which saw him suspended for four months of football and dropped permanently from the French international team) had resulted in the Red Devils losing the Premier League title that year to Blackburn.
He had redeemed himself somewhat by leading United to the double in May of 1996, but many United fans still viewed the Frenchman as being more of a problem that he made up for on the pitch. The criticisms around Cantona were starting to build on the club captain throughout the 1996-97 season, but seemingly all of that changed with this reminder of exactly what he could do.
The celebration itself—full of nonchalance and majesty—was voted by the public as the Best Celebration in the Premier League's 20 Seasons Award. Upon hearing that he'd taken out the award, Cantona (in his typical arrogant fashion) replied, via PremierLeague.com, "That's the only thing I won? For a king like me it's not a lot."
Jimmy Bullard, Hull City
(A) to Manchester City, EPL
28 November, 2009
When Manchester City made the trip to Hull City in 2008, the result wasn't so kind for the home team. The Citizens slammed four first-half goals past the Tigers, and it led to then-manager Phil Brown sitting his players down at half-time—on the pitch—and giving them a spray.
Jimmy Bullard was one of those players who copped an earful from the manager, so when he netted a penalty to snare a point against City in the corresponding fixture the following season, he showed that he had not only remembered that day, but also learned from it as well.
Brown—having picked up a stunning result in drawing at the Etihad Stadium—certainly saw the funny side of things, calling it a "fantastic celebration," per BBC. He said, "Great comedy is about timing. I couldn't deliver my post-match speech as I was laughing so much. The whole thing was timed to perfection."
Jurgen Klinsmann, Tottenham Hotspur
(A) to Sheffield Wednesday, EPL
20 August, 1994
Jurgen Klinsmann came to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 1994 as a very hated figure.
Not only had his German national team knocked England out of the 1990 World Cup, but he came with a reputation as a diver and somewhat of an overrated player. However, those feelings soon changed, with Klinsmann having a good laugh at himself when he netted his first goal for Spurs.
He happily dived away—admitting that he knew the reputation he had—and in doing so, endeared himself to fans right around the league. Even the media started to fall in love with the German, and he would go on to win the 1995 Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year Award.
Even Madame Tussauds got in on the action eventually.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United
(H) to Sheffield Wednesday, EPL
10 April, 1993
Manchester United welcomed Sheffield Wednesday to Old Trafford as the 1992-93 Premier League was coming to a close. The Red Devils were in a close battle with Aston Villa on top of the table as they searched for Sir Alex Ferguson's first "Premier League" title but had seemingly given up the three points on offer when they found themselves 1-0 down with just six minutes remaining.
Steve Bruce popped up for a header in the 85th minute, and in the 97th minute (yes, welcome to the beginning of Fergie Time), produced his second goal. That gave United the victory, the three points and they would go on to clinch the league from Villa.
No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson and Bryan Kidd were so happy!
Robbie Fowler, Liverpool
(H) to Everton, EPL
6 April, 1999
Everton fans (as is expected with the nature of the Merseyside derby) were never fond of Liverpool's star striker, Robbie Fowler, and it seems the feelings were mutual.
Having been accused by the Toffees fans of taking drugs, Fowler memorably let them know what he thought of their claims when the two clubs met in April. The striker netted a crucial penalty, and then proceeded to use the white line of the penalty area as a pretend "white line" of drugs.
He was fined £60,000 by the club; the FA suspended him for four games.
And his actions live on as one of the greatest rivalry celebrations ever.
Paul Gascoigne, England
(A) to Scotland, Euros
15 June, 1996
Paul Gascoigne certainly wasn't a man held in high regard by English media. The Guardian's Mark Watson pointed out that "his Mars Bar-eating, kebab-dependency and damaging association with a ne'er-do-well named Five Bellies were well documented," and they weren't alone in saying that.
Gascoigne's gluttony had become a national topic, and for many of the media outlets, a topic that they could use to bring about his downfall. That was the media machine which his actions in England's 1996 fixture against Scotland at the European Championships were directed at.
After scoring a sensational goal, Gascoigne lay on the ground as his team-mates squirted water into his mouth. The celebration was meant to be a re-enactment of the "dentist's chair" drinking game which took place during a pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong.
In many ways, it was a sign to the media that Gascoigne wasn't going to be deterred by their comments and would live his life as he saw fit.
Brandi Chastain, United States
(H) to China, World Cup
10 July, 1999
It was the moment that every player simply dreams of having as a child. World Cup final, penalty shootout—last remaining kick to win the trophy for your country.
It was a moment that Brandi Chastain and the United States would savor forever.
When asked about the celebration and why she chose to do what she did, Chastain was adamant that it wasn't a planned celebration. There was no thought, just emotion, she told Nina Mandell of USA Today, adding:
Maybe it was the exhaustion having gone through 120 minutes against China... I don't think I had any extra energy to be too amped up, that's one of the moments you train for and you learn through team building how to live in that moment because everything's going to be okay no matter what you do.
It was just not allowing that moment to be bigger than a 12-yard penalty kick.
Marco Tardelli, Italy
vs. West Germany, World Cup
11 July, 1982
Having suffered the heartbreak of missing out on the final in 1978, Italy came to the 1982 World Cup full of expectation and hope that this would be their time to shine.
Drawn into a group alongside Argentina and Brazil certainly didn't help that cause, but the Azzurri showed that they were ready to step up this year—winning both their games to move through to the semi-finals. There they beat Poland 2-0 and drew West Germany in the final.
Italy would go on to win 3-1 on the day (with West Germany scoring a late consolation goal), but the final is perhaps most remembered for Marco Tardelli's celebration.
With tears running down his face, the Italian sprinted around the pitch after scoring in the 69th minute—fists pumping and screaming in delight. The sheer delight of scoring in a World Cup final for your country had overcome him and brought about one of the most euphoric moments in world football, which you could simply watch and enjoy time and time again.
Diego Maradona, Argentina
vs. Greece, World Cup
21 June, 1994
At the time, the goal or the celebration weren't all that iconic.
I mean, sure it was in the group stage of the World Cup and the goal itself was the product of a wonderful bit of team skill from Argentina, but compared to some of the others, the context wasn't that memorable. However, as history shows, the aftermath most certainly was.
Courtesy of having a front-on vision after Diego Maradona stared down the camera, many thought that the great Argentinian was under the influence of drugs. There had been some whispers of drug-taking before this, but after seeing his eyes and emotion, this made those suspicions even greater and started to attract more people and notoriety to the idea that Maradona was a drug-taker.
Turns out they were right.
Maradona would fail a drug test for ephedrine doping and was immediately removed from the 1994 World Cup. He would never play in an international match ever again.
This goal would be his last for Argentina.
Stan Collymore, Liverpool
(H) to Newcastle United, EPL
3 April, 1996
Both Liverpool and Newcastle were still in the hunt for the 1995-96 Premier League title when they met at Anfield in early April, but both could not afford to lose. They had both lost their previous league matchup and, with Manchester United having a relatively easy run home, needed the three points on offer.
What they didn't know is just how iconic this game would become.
After falling behind on several occasions, Liverpool leveled the game at 3-3 in the 68th minute through Stan Collymore. Back and forth they would go over the final minutes, before that man again—Collymore—produced a rocket shot in the second minute of stoppage time to seal the victory.
All I can remember thinking was "Hit the target." I wanted to hit it across Pavel Srnicek, which is what you're supposed to do. But I hit it so hard that it beat him at his near post. I didn't know what to feel after. It was fantastic.
I ran over to the Kop and was thinking: "What have I done?"
Newcastle would go on to lose the title race by three points: the exact number which they could have won in this game. Manager Kevin Keegan would resign in January.
Collymore would go down as a Liverpool legend forever.
Craig Bellamy, Liverpool
(A) to Barcelona, UCL
21 February, 2007
If you haven't done so already, read the full comments made by Craig Bellamy about his "golf club" incident with John Arne Riise via The Daily Mail here.
In short, Bellamy got drunk and hit Riise with a golf club. That's about it.
After falling behind to an early Deco goal, Bellamy then stepped up for the Reds and netted home a hugely important goal against La Blaugrana to tie the game. His celebration, though, stole all the headlines from the goal as he pretended to swing a golf club, in reference to the previous incident.
The most ironic thing of all was the man who scored the winner that night.
Riise, who, not so surprisingly, didn't celebrate in the same way.
Paolo Di Canio, Lazio
(H) to Roma, Serie A
6 January, 2005
The Lazio-Roma derby is already one of the biggest rivalries in world football. It didn't need any extra spicing up to make it interesting or get the fans riled up, but that's exactly what enigmatic striker Paolo Di Canio did during his time at the Italian club in 2005.
Scoring the first goal and then substituted just before the end, Di Canio produced a fascist salute to the crowd in leaving the field—something which obviously caused a stir.
Least of which being the fact that Roma are inclined to left-wing politics.
Di Canio was banned and fined after repeating the gesture, but he vehemently defended his actions in his autobiography (h/t Tom McGowan, CNN):
I will always salute as I did because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people. I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values, values of civility against the standardization that this society imposes upon us...
Graeme Souness, Galatasaray
vs. Fenerbahce, Turkish Cup
24 April, 1996
Speaking of rivalry games that don't need spicing up, it appears that someone forgot to tell Graeme Souness that Galatasaray and Fenerbahce is another one of those fixtures.
This time, Souness wasn't even playing: He was the manager.
After Galatasaray beat Fenerbahce to win the 1996 Turkish Cup, Souness placed a large Galatasaray flag in the middle of the field. Unsurprisingly, his actions sparked wild scenes in the crowd which almost escalated into a full-scale riot given the two sets of fans.
His actions also drew comparisons with Turkish hero Ulubatli Hasan, who was killed as he planted the Ottoman flag at the end of the Siege of Constantinople.
Souness became a hero to Gala fans, but not so much to Fenerbahce.
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