Frederic Piquione’s red card for jumping into a heaving mass of West Ham fans deliriously celebrating a second (and potentially winning) goal at Everton on Saturday brought into focus one of the most inane developments in the evolution of modern football: the goal celebration. Yes, we know that various World Cups have seen some bizarre and, admittedly entertaining rituals to commemorate the football hitting the back of the net just moments earlier. The first of these, in my memory, occurred in the 1982 World Cup with Falcao and most memorably Tardelli performing the raised arms, pumping chest, bulging eyes routine whilst running the length of the pitch. These events set the tone for later ‘goal celebs’ which began to permeate the English Leagues. Don’t get me wrong: scoring at the World Cup finals is a matter of emotion. And you would be hard pressed to criticise a player for scoring at the most important tournament in his sport and one that he might never get the chance to revisit. But when you see Didier Drogba going through orgasmic throes having scored at, say, Molineux or Nani behaving as if he had discovered mass production of nuclear fusion when scoring against Wigan, it all looks a little, er well over the top. What happened to the simple handshake? The pat on the back? The running back to the halfway line with your team mates giving you a quick hug and, ah yes, the occasional kiss on the head? All far more civilised, wouldn’t you say? The modern goal celebration says far more about how players think about themselves: the Me, Me, Look at Me, type of narcissism on display is hard to digest sometimes particularly when you think that it really is just a game. And a team game at that.
As for Monsieur Piquionne and the legion of media men who saw fit to criticise the rules that led to his dismissal, one thing seems to have slipped their minds: the players know or should know exactly what the rules are. These rules were enacted to ensure everything stays in perspective. A little more of that and we could actually concentrate on less theatrics and more football…..