Scoring a goal is, without a doubt, one of the most pleasurable experiences in football. Even the celebration has become something of a competition in itself. In recent years, we have seen Luca Toni’s infamous ‘lightbulb’ celebration, Miroslav Klose’s somersault, Raul’s kiss of the wedding ring and Tim Cahill’s assault on the corner flag, among others. Creativity knows no bounds.
Things are no different at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where fans have already been treated to the occasional party piece. Canada’s Jordan Hamilton, for one, has not only caused a stir with his unusual goal celebrations, but the 17-year-old could also be described as the Canucks’ insurance policy: he has scored two of Canada’s three goals at the tournament so far and without him, their chances of reaching the last 16 would be slim at best.
“The whole team is doing their bit. I’m happy to have scored those two goals, but I couldn’t have done it on my own,” a modest Hamilton, who has scored five goals in seven matches in 2013, told FIFA.com. “Of course I’m satisfied with my performances this year, but I get annoyed every time I miss a chance. I could have scored more. Alan Shearer once said that the next opportunity is always just around the corner. That’s what I adhere to.”
Hamilton’s goals against Iran (1-1) and Austria (2-2) were similar on several counts. On both occasions, he found the net just after half-time to level the scores at one apiece. However, he marked both goals with different celebrations. “After my goal against Austria, I ran to the corner flag, fell to my knees and looked to the heavens. I dedicated that goal to my cousin, who passed away recently. I promised him I would make it to the World Cup. I did, that’s why that goal was for him. Against Iran, we were losing and it was just after the break. I ran towards the camera and said ‘stay calm’ with an appropriate gesture.”
His celebrations are by no means spontaneous, however. Before leaving for a match, Hamilton sits on the bed in his hotel room and tries to picture what might happen during the game. “Sometimes, scoring a goal is so exciting that you just start running and screaming,” he said. “But I often think about what to do beforehand. I imagine scenarios in which I get the ball and what I then have to do to score. I even go over everything in the changing room just before the game. Sometimes, we all practice our celebration together.”
Hamilton takes his inspiration from Italian superstar Mario Balotelli of AC Milan, not because of his shenanigans off the pitch, but due to his performances on it. “He is superb on the pitch,” he enthused. “He could be the best player in the world. At the moment it’s Messi, but Balotelli’s time will come. I try to imitate him when I play. I love how he represents Italy with pride. When he scores a goal for his club, he claims it’s his job, but when he scores for his country, you see his passion.”
Hamilton also used to hold Thierry Henry, who has now retired from international football, in high regard, mainly due to the Frenchman’s special celebrations. The 1998 World Cup winner would casually lean against the post after finding the net.
“Everyone knows I love scoring goals, but I’m also quite good at celebrating and always try to do something creative and new,” said Hamilton, who was on the verge of his first World Cup appearance at the tender age of 15: He was part of the Canada squad at the South American qualifying tournament for the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico, but just missed out on a place in the final squad.
He has been one of the standout performers in the UAE this time, however and hopes to help Canada, who have not won in 17 attempts at the U-17 finals (13 defeats, four draws), end their barren spell when they play Argentina. “We want to make history and get our first win. We have managed four draws in a row now. There were many games we could have won, but that’s just what happens in such an exceptional sport.”