Off The Ball

The weird & wacky world of footie celebrations

Wayne Rooney (L) and Paul Scholes (R) of Manchester United celebrate
© Getty Images

In his famous work The Mysterious Stranger, American writer Mark Twain wrote that “joy and sanity cannot coexist”. Clearly, not everyone would agree. However, in the world of football, where great victories are often accompanied by spontaneous outpourings of elation, those words carry more than a grain of truth.

Some football celebrations are uncontrollable; some are both mad and ridiculous. And others are moments of sheer comedy. Football celebrations can also, sometimes, seem tired and rehearsed. In Italy and England last year, however, the respective title winners marked their successes in ways that were anything but run-of-the-mill.

On 15 May 2011, during AC Milan’s Italian title celebrations, Ghanaian midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng appeared dressed as Michael Jackson and began dancing to the late singer's tunes, even imitating the so-called King of Pop's famous moonwalk.

Boateng had promised to impersonate Jackson, his favourite singer, if AC Milan won the title. His slick moves certainly impressed the watching fans and Italian TV viewers, who compared them favourably with those of the late entertainer. Boateng’s team-mates also enjoyed the performance, with Massimo Ambrosini declaring: “He’s not joking! We really deserve the title!”

While Boateng’s routine clearly amused his fans and team-mates, Wayne Rooney’s choice of celebration last year came as something of a surprise. Rooney marked Manchester United’s league success by shaving his chest hair and creating the number 19, to represent the number of titles won by the club. He then sent a photo of his handiwork to his team-mates via micro-blogging website Twitter. “None of us thought Wazza would send that photo! He’s madder than we thought,” was the reaction of Michael Owen, Rooney’s Manchester United team-mate.

Celebrating with the enemyUruguayan fans will never forget La Celeste’s historic triumph at the 1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, when Obdulio Varela and Co beat the hosts 2-1 in the Final at the famous Maracana stadium. That memorable victory sparked surreal scenes, which involved Varela celebrating Uruguay’s success with the Brazilian fans, as noted by famous Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano in his book Football in Sun and Shadow.

Varela’s team-mate, Alcides Ghiggia, can still recall the scenes clearly: “After our midday meal, the day after a match, we all stayed at the hotel. There was a bistro on the street corner, and Valera decided to go and have a beer there. The Brazilians there recognised him and started chanting his name in their Brazilian accents."

It’s a misunderstanding, the trophy didn’t fall. It jumped from the bus.

Fifty years later, Lyon also celebrated their fifth French league title in unlikely surroundings far from home, in Paris. It was 15 April 2006, and the Lyonnais had been closely following the league match between Lille and Bordeaux, which finished in a 3-2 victory for Lille. It was the result Lyon had been hoping for, as it confirmed them as champions before they had even kicked a ball in the 35th round of the season.

After the final whistle, Lyon’s players left the hotel and celebrated their title by performing a *Haka, *a traditional Maori dance ritual, with Malian midfielder Mahamadou Diarra at the front of the pack.

From creative to clumsyStaying in France, Lille won the league and cup double last year, which prompted a rather unique celebration from defender Adil Rami. Rami had already agreed to leave *Les Dogues *for Valencia, and had promised the fans that he would treat them to a special surprise as a parting gift.At the start of Lille’s title celebrations, Rami, who had dyed his hair red for the occasion, donned the costume of the club’s mascot, Doggy Dog. He then took to the centre of the pitch where he proceeded to dance, for some time, before saluting his fans and team-mates over the PA system.

Former Al Ahly and Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, meanwhile, made a habit of celebrating each title win by climbing on to the crossbar of his goal and eating a watermelon. The celebration is possibly linked to the name of El Hadary’s home village, Kafer Al-Batikh, in the Damietta region of Egypt, which translates literally as ‘watermelon village’. The area is not, in fact, known for its watermelons, but its name almost certainly provided El Hadary’s inspiration.

What happened last year as Real Madrid paraded the Copa del Rey in front of their fans was both amusing and unfortunate in equal measure. Sergio Ramos was the unwitting protagonist, after he dropped the trophy from the team bus and then watched as it was crushed under the wheels. Ramos was able to see the funny side of his blunder, and later took to his Twitter account to explain his version of events: “It’s a misunderstanding, the trophy didn’t fall. It jumped from the bus when we got to Cibeles [a square in Madrid] and it saw so many Real Madrid fans!”

Ajax’s Dutch goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, followed in Ramos’s unfortunate footsteps just a few days later. Like the Spanish international defender, 29-year-old Stekelenburg dropped the Dutch championship shield from Ajax’s team bus as it drove around town to celebrate what was the club’s first title win in six years.

Painful celebrationsBorussia Dortmund’s club motto is “True Love”. But, after the way their title celebrations unfolded this year, they may well be tempted to change it to “Love Hurts”.  During Dortmund’s celebrations after retaining the Bundesliga title, their club president tore a muscle as he tried to escape from Felipe Santana. The defender had been trying to spray his president with beer, but ended up injuring him inadvertently instead.

Dortmund’s president was not the only one who left that party with a wince. Indeed, just days after suffering a nasal fracture in training, winger Kevin Grosskreutz took another blow to the nose during the title celebrations. Fortunately, though, he was able to laugh it off: “My nose is completely destroyed but I don’t care. I can’t feel the pain anymore.”

Grosskreutz also celebrated in memorable fashion after helping his side win the league last year. The German starlet had not been to the barbers since October 2011, having promised his team-mates that he would keep growing his hair until Dortmund had won the title. Once the league was safe, Grosskreutz’s team-mates, Santana and Dede, got out the clippers and duly shaved off his overgrown locks.

Have your sayCan you recall any particularly memorable celebrations by your favourite team? Leave a comment to share your favourites with football fans from around the world.

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