Goals are the main aim of football – which is exactly why they are called goals – and are rightfully celebrated as such. The difficulty of putting the ball in the back of the net is exactly what sets football apart from most other sports, and the euphoric nature of scoring is unrivalled.
Roger Milla’s dancing hips at Italia 90, Peter Crouch’s robotics, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 180º boom jump have all made their way into the history of the game, and are a big part of what makes the sport beautiful.
That being said, celebrations aren’t always recieved as joyous expressions, and some players use them to respond to criticism, promote political views, or even purely to bait an opposition. Sometimes they are just controversial.
Here we’re taking a look at five celebrations that cost a player far more than just a yellow card.
Emmanuel Adebayor Running the 100m
It’s an unwritten rule that footballers don’t celebrate a goal against their former clubs, as a mark of respect. Then came Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker left Arsenal to join Man City in 2009 in the first wave of new stars signed by the club’s new owners. The move prompted Arsenal fans to be extremely vocal about their former hero’s departure, calling it a betrayal motivated by money.
The script was written when Arsenal were handed a trip to the Etihad in the early weeks of the season, and of course Adebayor scored. Not only did he celebrate, he sprinted the full length of the pitch to knee slide in front of the travelling fans. Missiles were thrown, including a plastic stool (somehow) and Adebayor was written up for reckless conduct.
Robbie Fowler ‘Eating Grass’
In the second Merseyside derby of the 1998/99 season, Liverpool hitman Robbie Fowler got down on his knees in front of the Everton fans. It wasn’t a mark of respect though, it was to pretend that the byline was made of cocaine. For weeks before the match, Fowler was accused by fans of being a prolific user of cocaine.
There was never any evidence to support the claims, and Fowler took them to heart. He responded with this celebration after dispatching an early penalty in front of the away fans, who were baiting him. Fowler was fined a record £32,000 and banned for four matches, which probably cost him the Premier League Golden Boot that season. Oops.
Nicolas Anelka and the Quenelle
In 2013, Nicolas Anelka scored his second and final goal for West Brom, and celebrated by performing a ‘quenelle’
For those who aren’t aware, the gesture is more well known as an anti-semitic symbol due to appearing as a reverse Nazi salute – the Frenchman claiming to be doing it in support of controversial comedian Dieudonne. It’s worth mentioning, at this point, that Dieudonne has been convicted for hate speech and advocating terrorism, and fined multiple times for antisemitism.
Anelka was promptly fined £80,000 and banned for five matches for performing the Quenelle, regardless of its intention (again, intending to support a noted antisemite is still really, really bad). Zoopla, who are run by a Jewish businessman, pulled their sponsorship of the Baggies and Anelka’s contract was terminated by the club. This effectively brought an unceremonious but fittingly controversial end to what should, on paper, have been a great career.
Alex Morgan – and That’s the Tea
England were in fine form during the 2019 Women’s World Cup, storming to the semi-final stage for the second tournament in a row. Only the pre-tournament favourites stood in their way of going further than the men’s team had the previous year. In a heartbreaking end, the USA won 2-1, the winner scored by four-time CONCACAF Player of the Year Alex Morgan.
She promptly celebrated her header by running to the corner and making a tea sipping action, pinky sticking out and all. Whilst Morgan didn’t face any punishment for the action – which was generally seen as a good natured ribbing of the English stereotype – some fans on Twitter wildly overreacted and called celebration a nod to the Boston Tea Party, going as far as wrong-headedly calling her racist.
Lua Lua Backflips Into Hot Water
This is more about disobeying the manager than bringing the game into disrepute. With Portsmouth in the bottom three heading into the business end of the 2005/06 season, Lomana Lua Lua was banned from his acrobatic celebrations by Harry Redknapp in case he got injured.
Of course, Lua Lua scored a late equaliser against Arsenal at the end of April and backflipped straight onto his ankle, ruling him out for the season’s final three weeks. He was Pompey’s top scorer at the time, and ‘Arry was less than impressed.