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5 of the most controversial goal celebrations in football

Alex Morgan has caused controversy this week with her tea-drinking celebration
Alex Morgan has caused controversy this week with her tea-drinking celebration
Scott Newman

The celebrations of the USA team during the current FIFA Women’s World Cup have come under fire ever since their first game of the tournament – a 13-0 victory against Thailand – when they were accused of over-celebrating against a hugely weaker side.

This week, it’s been the turn of striker Alex Morgan to be under the spotlight, as her comical celebration following her goal against England – which saw her miming sipping a cup of tea, either referencing the famous Boston Tea Party or poking fun at an English stereotype – has been accused of being everything from disrespectful to racist.

Whether Morgan’s celebration deserved to become such a talking point is highly debatable, but she isn’t the only one in the football world to cause controversy with her post-goal antics. Here are 5 other goal celebrations that caused massive controversy.


#1. Sam Clucas

Sam Clucas' celebration apparently referenced a controversial porn website
Sam Clucas' celebration apparently referenced a controversial porn website

Both Ellen White and Dele Alli have become famed for using celebrations involving hand-and-eye gestures, but midfielder Sam Clucas found himself in trouble in February 2018 when he performed a similar celebration after scoring a goal for Swansea in a 3-1 win over Arsenal. Clucas ran towards a TV camera and made a “spying” gesture with his right hand that seemed innocuous, but was immediately recognised as being a reference to the logo of a viral pornographic website.

The website – famed for putting together clips from porn videos with a voice-over narrating the action in a thick Yorkshire accent – has been accused of degrading women, and when Clucas’ celebration was linked to the site he was immediately condemned by the media.

The FA stated that they were “looking into” the celebration while Swansea claimed Clucas “wasn’t fully aware” of the internet site and a few days later, the player apologised, putting the whole thing largely to bed.

Strangely enough though, despite the media’s focus on Clucas, he wasn’t the only person to reference the website in his celebration; Southampton players Charlie Austin and Jack Stephens also appeared to mime a similar gesture while boxer Kell Brook also performed it during an interview.

#2 Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor found himself in trouble after running the length of the pitch to taunt the Arsenal fans in his celebration
Emmanuel Adebayor found himself in trouble after running the length of the pitch to taunt the Arsenal fans in his celebration

Scoring a goal against your old club is always going to be a little controversial, and it’s often hard for players to find the correct way to go about celebrating it. Some players outright refuse to celebrate a goal against their own club – and find themselves in hot water with their new fans for doing so – so perhaps a simple gesture would be best. Emmanuel Adebayor, on the other hand, did neither when he scored for new club Manchester City against his old side Arsenal in 2009.

Adebayor had taken a lot of abuse from Gunners fans for making the move to the Etihad, largely being accused of greed following his £25m move. In the Togolese striker’s mind, though, Arsenal had simply accepted a bid for him, and he didn’t deserve the abuse, particularly as his fellow former Gunner Kolo Toure had been clapped by the crowd.

And so when he scored as part of a 4-2 win for the Citizens, he decided to run the entire length of the pitch in order to slide on his knees and taunt the Arsenal fans. Naturally mayhem ensued, and in the end, Adebayor was fined £25,000 by the FA and banned for two matches for causing a potentially serious public order incident – although the FA’s commission also accepted that Adebayor had been taunted in a hostile manner.

#3 Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka was accused of anti-Semitism after his use of this gesture in celebration
Nicolas Anelka was accused of anti-Semitism after his use of this gesture in celebration

French striker Nicolas Anelka was no stranger to controversy throughout his career, whether it was due to forcing a move from Arsenal to Real Madrid in his early days or the incident that saw him sent home from the 2010 World Cup after verbally abusing manager Raymond Domenech. However, the most controversial moment of his playing time certainly came when he celebrated a goal for West Bromwich Albion in a strange manner in 2013.

Anelka celebrated one of his two goals in a 3-3 draw with West Ham with a gesture known as the ‘Quenelle’, apparently devised by a friend of Anelka’s, French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. Unfortunately, while M’bala M’bala claimed the gesture was an “anti-establishment” one, it has also been linked with anti-Semitism and has been described as an “inverted Nazi salute”.

Not only did Anelka find himself in trouble – slapped with a five-match ban and an £80,000 fine by the Football Association – but despite suspending the player until the outcome of a club inquiry, West Brom also found themselves in trouble too, losing the sponsorship of Zoopla, who are co-owned by a Jewish businessman.

For his part, Anelka denied that he was anti-Semitic – but despite the FA agreeing, it was hard to defend the French striker.

#4 Robbie Fowler

Robbie Fowler infamously mimed snorting a line of cocaine in his 1999 celebration against Everton
Robbie Fowler infamously mimed snorting a line of cocaine in his 1999 celebration against Everton

Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was famed for his fun-loving personality in the 1990s almost as much as his goalscoring abilities, but despite this, accusations of drug-taking from rival fans were always unfounded. But evidently Fowler had taken them to heart, as he celebrated a goal against Mersey rivals Everton in controversial – and somewhat hilarious – fashion in April 1999.

After Fowler scored he went down on all fours on the goal line in front of the Everton fans before crawling along with it while covering a nostril – essentially miming snorting a line of cocaine. Fowler immediately came in for a ton of criticism, while Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier hardly painted himself in the best light either by claiming Fowler was miming “eating grass”.

The England striker was hit with a four-match ban for his actions and was also fined £60,000 by Liverpool for bringing the game into disrepute, despite his apologies for the incident.

It wasn’t the only controversy surrounding Fowler that season, either; he was also banned for a further two games for using homophobic taunts towards Chelsea’s defender Graeme Le Saux.

#5 Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio defended his use of a fascist salute in 2005 following a goal for Lazio
Paolo Di Canio defended his use of a fascist salute in 2005 following a goal for Lazio

When Nicolas Anelka decided to perform a gesture associated with the Far Right, at least he had the temerity to deny that he was attempting to push any kind of political agenda with his actions.

That wasn’t the case when it came to legendary Italian striker Paolo Di Canio, though. Di Canio managed to offend practically the whole football world in 2005 when he decided to raise his right arm in a salute to the fans of his side Lazio on multiple occasions.

To take things even further, Di Canio defended his use of the salute by outright stating that while he wasn’t a racist, he was a proud fascist. He claimed his use of the salute was simply his way of showing pride in his people, although that was part of the issue; Di Canio had grown up as a fan of Lazio and was involved with their ‘ultra’ fans, and had also defended Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in his autobiography.

Despite Lazio fans largely embracing the gesture, Di Canio was hit with a one-match ban for his behavior and was also fined €7000 – but perhaps he should’ve been thankful that he didn’t find himself in far more trouble – especially when you take into account that in Italy, like in Germany, encouraging fascism is a recognized crime.

Edited by Sai Teja

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