Football is a sport with plenty of magic moments, and nothing quite captures the spirit of the beautiful game quite like a spectacular goal celebration. Whether it's controversial, hilarious or emotionally resonant, everyone loves a good goal celebration, so we've put together a pretty sizable collection of our favorites and other notables and arranged them in one convenient slideshow.
Here they are, in no particular order (we will save the best of the best for last though): the skillful, the shocking, the funny, the gravity-defying, 50 notable goal celebrations in the history of football. As always, if you have any you'd like to add, just tell us in the comments.
Itinerant English footballer Bas Savage achieved cult status while at Brighton & Hove Albion, not only for his goal-heavy start to the season but for his iconic tribute to Michael Jackson which occurred with every goal. Here's one from a 2007 match against Crewe Alexandra.
Not to be outdone on the Jacko homages, John Wolyniec of the New York Red Bulls went viral in 2009 after incorporating the "Thriller" dance in his goal celebration. MJ would be proud.
In a career laden with iconic goals and celebrations to match, there's a lot of Lionel Messi footage to choose from. We particularly love the response not from the players themselves, but from Catalan commentator Joaquim Maria Puyal, who just goes flat-out nuts.
In a 2006 World Cup qualifying match between Andorra and the Netherlands, prolific Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty for the Oranje, prompting Andorra's Antoni Lima to heckle him. Not one to take the incident lightly, he scored later in the match and proceeded to get up in Lima's face and, through his expressions and gesture, ask "Who's laughing now?" (He was given a yellow card for the incident, but the Netherlands still took home the victory, 4-0.)
(Celebration begins at around 5:25)
When perpetual jokester and Rangers fan favorite "Super Ally" McCoist scored a goal for Kilmarnock, he trotted to the side and proceeded to shake the hands of passing teammates with a polite but firm grip and an equally professional expression.
When top-flight defender Lilian Thuram ended his career, he was the most capped player in the history of Les Bleus. In the 1998 World Cup semi-final against Croatia, Thuram channeled another French great in celebrating in his goal celebration: the great sculptor, Rodin.
After scoring against Croatia, Thuram mimicked the iconic Rodin scupture, "The Thinker." Talk about a masterpiece of a goal.
The Dude would be proud: FC Midtjylland striker Ken Ilso decided to celebrate a goal against rivals FC Kobenhavn by setting up his very eager teammates for a mock game of ten-pin bowling. Looks like his backswing is as good as his goal-scoring.
There's an old saying around North London: "Behind every great goalkeeper, there's a ball from Ian Wright." Arsenal and Crystal Palace star Ian Wright was one of the best strikers in the Premiership in his heyday, and in 1997 he was charged with the much-ballyhooed task of breaking Cliff Bastin's record and becoming Arsenal's top all-time goal-scorer. When he tied Bastin's record, he pulled off his kit to reveal a Nike-sponsored t-shirt with the message "179 - Just Done It!" To be fair, he hadn't done it quite yet having only tied the record during that celebration, but he broke the record five minutes later.
Sometimes, football has been known to get just a bit political.
Perhaps the best example is Paolo Di Canio's notorious fascist salute during a match between Lazio and AS Roma, which led to a firestorm of controversy and his outspoken remarks about Benito Mussolini and fascism.
On the other end of the political spectrum though, we have Cristiano Lucarelli, who saluted supporters and citizens of Livorno by saluting a political figure of a different stripe: he revealed a Che Guevara t-shirt, much to the delight of fans, in his celebration.
Servette FC midfielder Paulo Diogo was so excited about assisting a goal for teammate Jean Beausejour in a 2004 match against FC Schaffhausen, that he decided it would be a good idea to climb the metal barrier fence into the fan section. His wedding ring got caught in the barrier, and he tore part of his finger off.
The bad news: The referee gave Diogo a yellow card for his "excessive celebration." The good news: Although part of his finger had to be amputated, he still continued to play professional football.
Scotland midfielder Gordon Strachan may only stand at 5'6", but for the Scotland side in the '80s, he was still a towering force. So when he scored a goal against West Germany at the 1986 World Cup, he tried to do that as his teammates had done and hurdle over the advertising boards. Due to his height though, he couldn't quite make it, so his teammates ran to rejoice with him while he had one leg resting on the boards.
(Celebration starts at around 1:07)
The Danish national team played a number of great games during the 1998 World Cup, but their performance in the quarter-finals against Brazil was made particularly memorable thanks to one Brian Laudrup. After an efficient equalizing goal, Laudrup slid into a relaxed-lounger-meets-male-model pose, with his teammates following suit.
Denmark was eliminated on a brace from Rivaldo, but Laudrup's moment of R&R stole the show.
(Celebration begins at around 3:00)
During the 1994-95 season, regional league side Aylesbury United experienced 15 minutes of fame when they reached the third round of the FA Cup, their most successful campaign ever. As their profile grew, their goal celebration, the duckwalk, became more and more popular, even being featured on the television program, They Think It's All Over.
Danish striker Bajram Fetai became an Internet sensation in 2010 when his team, FC Nordsjaelland, faced his former club, Silkeborg, who kicked him out for fighting in 2006. After scoring against Silkeborg, Fetai and his Nordsjaelland teammates staged a mock fight parodying the incident.
One of the most emotionally resonant goal celebrations is this one, from when Barcelona's Andrés Iniesta scored the goal which brought Spain victory in the final of the 2010 World Cup. In his victory lap, he ripped off his kit to reveal a shirt with the message "Dani Jarque, Siempre Con Nosotros" ("Dani Jarque, Always With Us"), a tribute to Espanyol defender Dani Jarque, whose sudden death from a heart attack during the 2009 pre-season resonated with many players in La Liga.
Shortly after Jarque's death, Cesc Fábregas also honored the defender, dedicating his goal in Arsenal's victory over Everton to him.
Everton midfielder Tim Cahill is perhaps best known for his trademark goal celebration in which he punches the corner post (hence the nickname "The Boxing Aussie"), but it was a far more serious goal celebration that is most remembered.
In a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth, Cahill gave a "handcuffs" gesture in his goal celebration before the flurry of punches began, a tribute to his brother, Sean, who had been incarcerated in Australia for grievous bodily harm after blinding a man. The move was seen as controversial, but Cahill was not penalized on the pitch.
Prior to this group stage match from the 2002 World Cup, Senegal looked like the underdogs against France, who were defending the '98 title. But extenuating circumstances, among them the absence of France's captain, Zinedine Zidane.
After David Trézéguet's blistering shot sailed past the post, Senegal's Papa Bouba Diop brought it back and slid the ball into the net, giving his side a 1-0 victory. Following the goal, Diop flung off his shirt and he and his teammates performed a spirited dance around it.
Sometimes, some rather unusual celebrating happens in the heat of the moment. When Sevilla's José Antonio Reyes scored a goal against Valladolid in a 2001 match, his teammates tackle and embrace him in excitement, as you do. But one teammate seemed to get a bit too zealous, as he bends down and appears to be biting Reyes's crotch region. It might have been a kiss. But from this angle, definitely looked like a bite.
The Ivorian striker, now at Galatasaray, was a hit at the Emirates for his spirited, thoroughly entertaining dancing celebrations, often with teammates Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor as his equally enthusiastic backup dancers.
Sometimes in the smaller divisions, because there are fewer fans and lower stakes, you can get away with more. In a 2005 match between FC United of Manchester and Castleton Gabriels (now Rochdale Town), Castleton's Matthew Russell scores his side's first goal, dives over the barrier and proceeds to sit in an audience chair and applaud himself. Well done, sir.
Nigeria's Super Eagles had a pretty great run in the 1994 World Cup, bolstered by manager Hristo Stoichkov and a number of entertaining legends, among them Finidi George and Jay Jay Okocha. Nigerian striker Rashidi Yekini stole the show in their group stage win over Bulgaria by scoring Nigeria's first-ever goal in the World Cup. In his excitement, he stumbles into the net after the ball and gets tangled in it, but is far too ecstatic to care.
Nigeria would go on to win their group stage.
Ahn Jung-Hwan was one of the heroes of South Korea's stellar side in the 2002 World Cup, but it was this rather topical celebration that was perhaps his most memorable act.
After scoring the equalizing goal in a group stage match against the United States, Ahn Jung-Hwan decided to, along with his teammates, pay homage to a fellow Korean athlete, Kim Dong-Sung. Several months earlier at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Kim, a speedskater, was disqualified for a cross-track of American competitor Apolo Anton Ohno, leading to his disqualification and Ohno getting the gold. So Ahn's celebration of choice? Mimicking a speedskater, natch.
Pretty self-explanatory. Georgian international Temuri Ketsbaia first made headlines as a textbook-case Bosman ruling signing, arriving at Newcastle United from AEK Athens in 1998 and quickly becoming a fan favorite, although he wasn't getting the time on the pitch to match. Frustration with his substitute role mounted and finally came to a head when he scored a late match winner against Bolton Wanderers, after which he ripped off his shirt and began kicking the advertising boards.
Now, Ketsbaia manages the Georgia national team after a successful stint with Anorthosis Famagusta, which he led to two Cypriot League cups.
Because for real, dude looks possessed in this shot. The legendary Diego Maradona ran into controversy after this goal celebration from the group stage of the 1994 World Cup. When he scored for Argentina against the Greek national team, Maradona's lunatic screaming, bloodshot eyes and creepy advancement towards the camera led to insinuations that Maradona was partaking in illicit substances. A drug test was issued and Maradona got sent home from the World Cup early.
No, it's not a hyperactive rendition of the "Thriller" dance. That is an imaginary baby they're rocking.
It's sometimes easy to forget that footballers have, you know, lives and significant others and children, and it's sometimes really touching and awesome when footballers salute their families on the pitch. Brazilian forward Bebeto played in a 1994 World Cup quarter-final match against the Netherlands days after his wife gave birth to their third child. In honor of his wife and ever-growing family, upon scoring a goal, Bebeto became a household name when he, backed by teammates Romário and Mazinho, mimed rocking a baby in celebration. Awwww.
Someone cue "Tiny Dancer," because the Italian national team has a cracking ballerina in its midst. Francesco Totti, who had a number of memorable goal celebrations throughout his career, responded to Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup with some spirited leaping and sashaying. Such beauty, such grace.
During a 2010 Euro qualifier match between Switzerland and Montenegro, Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic decided to show off his hard-working legs. In celebrating his match-winning goal, Vucinic stripped down to his skivvies as teammates ran to congratulate him.
A similar celebration had taken place two seasons before, when Vucinic scored a winning goal in the 90th minute for AS Roma in their victory over Cagliari.
It's the smile that hooks you. When David Pleat scored the goal to save Luton Town from relegation in a 1983 victory over Manchester City at Maine Road, that gleeful grin just overcomes his face as he leaps through the air. Sometimes the best goal celebrations aren't about the theatrics, but just the sweet, sweet satisfaction of having put the ball into the net.
Sometimes, it's the self-assuredness and quiet rejoicing that makes a goal celebration memorable as opposed to the burst of excitement.In 1996, Eric Cantona had already cemented his status as a Manchester United legend. But it was in this goal, from a match against Sunderland, that we get a sense of Cantona's self-awareness about his abilities on the pitch. After a sweet, expert-timed chip that sails into the corner of the net, Cantona looks around in wonder and lifts his arms, seeming to delight in his own awesomeness.
A year later, the King would retire, but his reign over Old Trafford is never-ending.
Diego Forlán has been regarded as one of the top Uruguayan players of his generation and has been a highly-rated striker throughout his career thanks to successful stints at Villarreal and Atlético Madrid, but before that, there were his three years at Manchester United, during which he didn't do a whole lot of scoring, but became something of a cult hero.
What sealed his status there was this celebration: when Forlán scored the match winner against Southampton in a 2002 match, he removed his shirt in celebration, but couldn't get it back on in time for the match to continue, leading to him playing for several minutes shirtless. Finally, the referees had to call time to let Forlán get dressed.
Leave it to one of the game's biggest jokers to turn a goal celebration into an opportunity to make fun of his coach. During a 2008 match at Eastlands, Hull City had struggled in the first half, prompting coach Phil Brown to give their mid-match lecture on the pitch in front of all the fans.
In a 2009 match, again at Eastlands, Jimmy Bullard scored on a penalty shot for the Tigers and decided to take the opportunity, along with his teammates, to mimic the infamous lecture.
Perhaps this guy should have been a gymast instead of a footballer. Whenever itinerant Congolese striker Lomana LuaLua would score, you could bet an elaborate string of somersaults, flips and cartwheels would follow close behind.
This is less a goal celebration and more a victory celebration, but the sheer audacity (and some might say stupidity) of Graeme Souness' actions merited the inclusion of this reverie.
Souness was the manager of Istanbul club Galatasaray in 1996, the year the Cim Bom defeated their fierce inter-city rival, Fenerbahçe, in the Turkish Cup final. Souness decided to celebrate by grabbing the most massive Galatasaray flag he could find and planting it, rather ferociously, in the middle of the pitch on Fenerbahçe's ground before fleeing the riot.
The incident earned Souness the nickname "Ulubatlı Souness," a homage to Ulubatli Hasan, the man who was killed as he planted the Ottoman Flag during the Siege of Constantinople.
The striker has always been a colorful personality on and off the pitch, but perhaps no incident tells that better than his "chicken dance" after scoring the equalizing goal in this 2004 Copa Libertadores match between his Boca Juniors and their bitter rivals River Plate. The dance-related taunt is a nod to "gallinas" (chickens), an insulting nickname for River Plate supporters. (He was red-carded for the dance and had to miss the final.)
Tévez has been a gold mine for great goal celebrations, among them this totally inexplicable but kind of amazing booty dance thing.
Welsh striker Craig Bellamy, then on his first stint at Liverpool, had a bit of a bad-boy reputation which was only galvanized in 2007 when he was accused of chasing teammate John-Arne Riise with a golf club, an incident which earned him the nickname "The Nutter with the Putter."
Not one to take matters too seriously, in a Champions League match against Barcelona not long after, Bellamy scored an equalizing goal and took a swing in the air—and at his critics—in celebration. And who knows? Maybe now that Bellamy is back at Anfield, there will be more great goal celebrations to come.
When it comes to acrobatics on the pitch, nobody can beat Julius Aghahowa, the Nigerian striker and former Shakhtar Donetsk star known better as "Aghawonder." Just watch and learn (but don't try this at home without a few spotters and several years of training).
Roger Milla, a striker for the Cameroonian national team, was toward the end of his career at 38 years old when he participated in the 1990 World Cup. Nevertheless, he became one of the biggest stars of the tournament, scoring four goals and electrifying the tournament with his spirited dance routines, in which he would shake his money-maker around the corner post.
Legendary Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler (a.k.a. "God") was a fan favorite on Merseyside throughout his career, but he gained notoriety for his prankster antics, playboy behavior and his being associated as one of the ringleaders of the "Spice Boys," a core group of Liverpool players throughout the '90s known for their distinctive style and penchant for excess.
During a 1999 Merseyside derby, Fowler decided to fire back at Everton fans who latched on to his "Spice Boy" reputation and accused him of being addicted to cocaine—after scoring against the Toffees, he knelt in front of the white penalty line and pretended to snort it, like cocaine.
Manager Gérard Houllier suggested it was a send-up of Rigobert Song's grass-eating celebration, but the FA didn't exactly buy that excuse, and Fowler received a four-match ban and a fine.
You've gotta love it when footballers can make fun of themselves. When Jürgen Klinsmann first signed with Tottenham Hotspur in 1994, his reputation as a diver and role in eliminating England from the 1990 World Cup made him a less-than-popular figure in the Premiership. But Klinsmann's sense of humor and goal-scoring quickly won fans over, most notably when he scored on his debut match against Sheffield Wednesday and dove across the pitch in celebration to make light of the public perception.
Klinsmann, now retired and coaching the US Men's National Team, has retained his cult status at White Hart Lane to this very day, to the point that when Spurs won the Carling Cup in 2008, the whole team celebrated with a "Klinsmann dive" for the fans.
Nigerian striker Finidi George had a stellar career as part of a three-time Eredivisie-winning Ajax side and a successful stint at Real Betis, but it was his antics at the 1994 World Cup that will go down in footballing history.
During a group stage match between Greece and Nigeria, George scored for his side before perplexing fans the world over with his curious celebration. After scoring, he got down on all fours and, pretending to be a dog, mimed marking his territory with the corner flag.
At least Brazilian footballer Edmilson Ferreira, at the time an attacker for Atletico Mineiro, was getting a healthy dose of Vitamin A with his goal celebration. When he scored against nearby rivals America-Belo Horizonte, nicknamed "The Rabbits," he taunted his opponents by pulling a carrot out of his shorts and eating it. You don't want to know where he was keeping the celery and ranch dressing.
Itinerant Argentine centre forward Facundo Sava netted more than 100 goals throughout his career, but his goal celebration was truly one of a kind. Sava would store a Zorro mask in his sock during matches and put it on after landing one in the back of the net.
Lanky England striker Peter Crouch first showed off his killer dance moves off the pitch at a party hosted by teammate David Beckham before the 2006 World Cup. They went over so well that Crouchy incorporated "the robot" into his goal celebrations in pre-tournament friendlies against Jamaica and Hungary.
Much to the delight of fans of the Three Lions, he gave an encore performance of the robot in a 2010 match against Ukraine. And much to the delight of comedian James Corden, who showed Crouchy some moves as part of a Comic Relief sketch, he added the "pull the rope" move Corden suggested.
Chances are you've already seen this one, but it was too legendary not to include.
Prior to the 1996 Euro tournament, the tabloids were taken with an image of Paul Gascoigne and England teammate Teddy Sheringham drinking in a dentist's chair after a night on the town. When England faced Scotland in a group stage match at the old Wembley Stadium, Gazza decided to pay homage to his notorious night of debauchery in a goal celebration. After scoring a stunner of a goal on a missed Gary McAllister penalty, he lay back while teammates squirted water into his mouth, mimicking the "Dentist's Chair" incident.
Two years later, Gazza would come under fire for an even more controversial goal celebration, in which he, while at Rangers, mimicked playing a flute (and therefore invoking Loyalist imagery) in front of Celtic supporters during the Old Firm derby. He received death threats from IRA members in the following months.
Another amazing celebratory moment from the Euro '96 tournament. When Stuart Pearce volunteered to take a penalty shot against Spain in the quarterfinal match, more fans probably reacted with dread than excitement: Pearcy was still haunted by a crucial penalty miss in the 1990 World Cup semifinals, which led to West Germany advancing over the Three Lions.
This time, he didn't miss. A cheeky corner shot found the back of the net, and the catharsis of that moment—the joy, the relief, the sense of redemption—can all be found in the range of contorted, emotionally-charged facial expressions which manifested themselves during Pearce's celebration.
A well-established attacker in the Brazilian leagues, Roger Galera played for a couple of seasons in Qatar before returning to his home country and joining Cruzeiro in early 2010. Early on in his stint with the Fox, he scored a late-in-the-game goal in the club's 3-1 Campeonato Mineiro victory over Atlético MG and celebrated by leaping over the barrier, grabbing the mascot (a fox's) head and wearing it for his victory sprint.
A perfectly-timed penalty kick, a Women's World Cup victory and in the end, one of the most resonant sports-related images of the decade. After scoring the winning goal for the USA in the 1999 Women's World Cup final penalty shootout against China, Brandi Chastain flung off her kit and did a triumphant power slide in her sports bra, fists in the air. The image appeared all over the media in the days that followed, made Chastain a household name and is still instantly recognizable.
This is a celebration that became viral last year, and truly, it is the stuff of YouTube gold.
If Icelandic club Stjarnan spent as much time scoring goals as they did perfecting the art of the goal celebration, they would be the greatest footballing force in Europe. In this, their most famous routine, Halldor Orri Bjornsson goes fishing for his flopping teammate, Johann Laxdal ("lax" is the Icelandic word for "salmon") and hilarity ensues.
Marco Tardelli's goal celebration from the 1982 World Cup finals is the sort moment that makes the "Beautiful Game" nickname bestowed upon football seem truly fitting.
After scoring a vital second-half goal to double Italy's lead over West Germany in what would end up as a victory for the Azzurri, Tardelli sprinted across the field, tears in his eyes, fists at his chest, joyously screaming "Goal! Goal!," overcome with pride and joy while his compatriots looked on. It still gets us to this very day.