It doesn’t take an anthropologist to discern that premeditation is the enemy of a celebration to shout about.
Desmond morris’s book The Soccer Tribe, published in 1981 but sadly out of print for many years, cast the celebrated zoologist’s eye over the rituals and unique ceremonies of football and interpreted them, often hilariously, by applying the disciplines of social anthropology to the study. This allows him to compare the conduct of players, managers and fans to the tribal customs and animal behaviour he had observed while engaged on rather more orthodox academic research.
much of it seemed tongue-in-cheek and deliberately pseudish but his list of the 18 distinct ways of celebrating a goal sprang to mind last weekend when four Premier League players performed variations on the theme that have supplemented the art in the 29 years since publication.
After scoring the goal that ultimately defeated Chelsea, manchester City’s Carlos Tevez pulled up his shirt to reveal a scrawl wishing many happy returns to his mother, reviving a tradition that began in the early 1990s with Ian Wright’s “I love the lads”, Robbie Fowler’s pledge of support for striking dockers and the crass rallying cry of Birmingham City’s Paul Tait: “sh*t on the Villa.”
Vest sloganeering has encompassed the political, the parochial and the mundane and now seems solely the preserve of those who want to ingratiate themselves with, appease or amuse their team-mates or family. As celebrations go they are now about as selfreferential as you can get.
Robert Green’s phoney soprano vaffanculo gesture to the press box at Upton Park following his first clean sheet of the season was a different kind of celebration entirely, an act of vindication after enduring so much criticism. Any po-faced attempt to charge him should face the sort of derision that Green has been subjected to over the past few months. emile Heskey, meanwhile, also had a pop back at his detractors by cupping his ears after that fine nat Lofthousesque headed goal at molineux to mock the abuse he had withstood for most of Aston Villa’s game against Wolves. Ridiculing players always offers a hostage to fortune and who but the most charmless berk would complain when they have the last laugh?
The last of the four triumphal sprees was undertaken by the newcastle captain, Kevin nolan, after scoring the penalty that put his side 1-0 up against stoke. After wrongfooting Thomas sorensen nolan set off, pursued by teammates, engaged in what can only be described as a chicken impersonation performed with such vim that had he been a few years older we might have taken for a tribute to norman Collier. It was rather convoluted and difficult to decipher but had the right quality of daftness to entertain all but stoke and sunderland fans.
We had such a string of well-rehearsed celebrations from 1992 to about five years ago that they began to pall. From Lee sharpe’s elvis with the corner flag to Paul Gascoigne’s priceless dentist’s chair and Chelsea’s 10-man primary school class photograph pose, they became a staple of sky’s Soccer AM each week and, as such, teams were egged on to top each other with ever more contrived routines from shining each other’s boots to pretending to be Vic Reeves and Bob mortimer cooing down doves from above. The lack of spontaneity rather ruined it, just like Fulham’s Facundo sava and the mask he pulled out of his sock. Goodness knows what morris would have made of that.
The backflippers, taking their lead from Real madrid’s goalscoring dentist Hugo sánchez, were a force for a while with Peter Beagrie, Lomana LuaLua and Robbie Keane but seem to have fallen out of favour, leaving the field clear for the hardy perennials – knee-sliding, belly-flopping a la Jürgen Klinsmnann and good old-fashioned high-kneed sprinting with one arm aloft. The waving the shirt over the head lassoo-style as practised so memorably by duncan Ferguson and Ryan Giggs have been made obsolete by officious concerns about timewasting. I don’t think you can beat denis Law’s salute, one arm raised with his shirt cuff gripped in his fist, for elegant simplicity nor should we forget, in deference to ed miliband’s outing of himself as a Leeds fan, Peter Lorimer’s resemblance to a demented circus sea lion, clapping himself frantically after a goal. mick Channon’s was the one we all took off at school, whirring the right arm through 360 degrees, while a slalom solo run to score would demand a re-enactment of emlyn Hughes’s Crazy Horse gallop while screaming “Get in there” in the high-pitched squeal made famous on the BBC’s 101 Great Goals video.
I do not know whether any of the examples from the weekend other than Tevez’s was cooked up in advance but it doesn’t take an anthropologist to discern that premeditation is the enemy of genuine celebration nor that the greatest of them all, marco Tardelli’s in the 1982 World Cup final, would not have been the same had he lifted his shirt to reveal “Ciao mama”. – Guardian news & media 2010
Man City’s Carlos Tevez pulled up his shirt to reveal a scrawl wishing many happy returns to his mother after he had scored the winner against Chelsea.