United States forward Alex Morgan is in hot water after her goal celebration against England on Tuesday, which saw the soccer star pretending to drink a cup of tea, with her pinky finger extended upward.
Was she mocking the English? Was it a reference to the Boston Tea Party? Was she imitating the popular Kermit the Frog “ that’s none of my business ” meme, in a response to the non-stop criticism her team has endured at this World Cup? At this point, nobody knows, but confusing and ridiculous celebrations have been long-time soccer tradition.
We look at 10 of the most memorable, controversial and ridiculous celebrations in both men’s and women’s World Cup history.
It was an undeniable turning point for women’s soccer when United States defender Brandi Chastain slotted home the winning penalty in the 1999 World Cup final match and then ripped off her shirt to celebrate.
The photo of Chastain with her fists in the air would grace Sports Illustrated that month, but it also caused controversy. Some wondered if it was all a marketing plan to expose the Nike swoosh on her sports bra to hundreds of millions of potential customers and others wondered if it was appropriate for her to remove her shirt at all. It should be noted that in the same year, Welshman Ryan Giggs celebrated a winning goal in the English FA Cup for Manchester United by ripping off his shirt and was universally lauded for the display of exuberance.
Chastain described the celebration as “momentary insanity” and a primal reaction to pressure and victory that only athletes will experience.
Remarkably, Chastain would later tell the BBC that her coach had instructed her to take the penalty kick with her left foot — something the right-footed defender had never done before — to throw off the opposition goalie. Clearly, it worked.
A baker’s dozen of celebrations
Whether you thought the U.S. women’s team’s celebrations during a recent 13-0 rout of Thailand were classless, perfectly reasonable, or just plain cringeworthy, they once again made headlines for the World Cup tournament.
Although many, including pundits in Canada, complained that the celebrations were obnoxious, some focused on how mechanical and rehearsed they were. If goal celebrations are supposed to be impromptu expressions of joy, many of the U.S. celebrations seemed contrived and awkward, wrote former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo.
“My favourite celebrations capture the rawness of the moment and are filled with spontaneous emotion,” wrote Solo , in critical column about the celebration in the Guardian newspaper.
In stark contrast to the performative Americans, Canadian legend Christine Sinclair is thoroughly low-key. Watch a highlight reel of her goals and you’ll see her barely register that the ball has gone into the back of the net.
At most, Sinclair will raise one hand and run towards her teammates. As the leader of Canada’s team for more than a decade, her celebration-aversion may have trickled down to her teammates: it was a TSN panel of former Canadian players who led the criticism of the U.S. excesses against Thailand.
There may be one exception for Sinclair, though: When Kadeisha Buchanan scored against the Americans in 2014, Sinclair gleefully tackled her to the floor during an extravagant celebration in the U.S. penalty box.
In the ridiculous, weird and a little gross category is Finidi George’s “peeing dog” celebration. The silky and supremely talented winger celebrated his goal for Nigeria in the 1994 World Cup by walking on all fours like a dog and then lifting his leg.
Although the celebration was a little vulgar, the goal was a sublime — a delicate chip over the onrushing goalie to cap off a lightning-quick counterattack.
That World Cup, which took place in the United States, also featured a single appearance by Diego Maradona who scored against Greece in the group stage and celebrated with a wild-eyed primal scream into the television camera. After the game, Maradona failed a drug test and was booted from the tournament.
Some celebrations are silly, some are contrived and some are simply the product of unadulterated glee. Hockey fans will recognize this genre in the form of Theo Fleury sliding halfway down the ice , exulting in a playoff goal against the Edmonton Oilers.
In soccer, Fabio Grosso is famous for his celebration that combined equal parts joy and disbelief. Grosso was a left fullback and had a fairly typical scoring record for the lowliest position on the field: 16 goals in 372 career matches. Anyone placing a bet on Grosso to score the winning goal in the 2006 World Cup semifinal against Germany would’ve made a nice profit.
After curling the ball into the corner, Grosso took off toward the sideline, shaking his head frantically and shouting, running aimlessly until he was tackled by his teammates.
One of the most memorable celebrations in World Cup history is also one of the most wholesome. Bebeto, one of the stars of the dominant 1994 Brazilian team that beat Italy to win the tournament that year, celebrated a quarter-final goal against the Netherlands by cradling an imaginary baby. Two of his teammates joined him, grinning ear-to-ear, as they rocked their hypothetical infants at an extremely unsafe speed.
Bebeto was not just celebrating his goal, but the birth of his son. And the celebrations have continued in the Bebeto household after the boy who inspired it recently signed a contract with Brazilian team Flamengo.
Bebeto’s celebration has inspired legions of copycats in the 25 years since he first performed it.
It’s hard to blame Michy Batshuayi for the moment of irrational exuberance after Belgium’s goal against England in the 2018 World Cup that saw him blasting himself in the face with the ball.
In fact, drop-kicking the ball into the air after a goal is a pretty standard celebration, whether it’s into the netting or into the stands behind the goal. Batshuayi got caught in two minds, though, and the ball came careening back off the post and into his face. It looked painful, but Batshuayi was fine to carry on with the match.
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