13 of the most controversial goal celebrations: Shaqiri, Fowler, Gazza…
Celebrating a goal should be a joyous thing, but occasionally footballers court controversy doing so – as former Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds United men have found out.
Scoring a goal generates the strongest emotion in football. Life, some would argue. The delight of the supporters, the impact on the game, the feeling of ‘f*ck you’.
We’ve taken a look at some of the most memorable times players have celebrated goals with the latter in mind, from fuelling political tensions to swearing at your own supporters.
After opening the scoring in a 3-2 victory over Merseyside rivals Everton, Fowler responded to unfounded reports of drug use by dropping to his knees and pretending to snort the line of the pitch markings.
He was already under investigation by the FA for an ongoing dispute with Graeme Le Saux, and was handed a six-match ban for both incidents – but the celebration has gone down in Premier League history.
Who remembers when Robbie Fowler did this infamous celebration… pic.twitter.com/VmtHYjhgXd
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) February 26, 2018
After returning from two months out during a short but turbulent spell at West Brom, Anelka netted a brace to open his account for the club in a match against West Ham in December.
He celebrated by performing a ‘quenelle’ gesture, which was popularised by his comedian friend Dieudonne, which is supposedly an inverted Nazi salute with strong anti-semitic significance.
The French forward was handed an £80,000 fine and a five-match ban by the FA, before he was sacked by West Brom for gross misconduct, after announcing his intentions to quit the club over social media.
“I was being abused by people who six months ago were singing my name,” Adebayor explained after racing the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal against former employers Arsenal for Manchester City.
“The abuse was for no reason. It wasn’t my fault I left, it was Arsene who wanted to accept the offer for me.”
“They were all clapping Kolo but they were shouting personal abuse at me before the match had even kicked off. If you were to abuse a man in the street for over an hour he would react and it would be a worse reaction than a goal celebration.
“I wasn’t going to stand there, listening to five thousand people insult my family when they had nothing to do with it. During that moment, I felt like I weighed 20 kilos when I felt like I weighed 2000 kilos before the game.”
Supporters responded furiously, launching anything and everything in the direction of the forward, who kneeled in front of them with his arms spread wide in an iconic moment.
Happy birthday Emmanuel Adebayor – thank you for the goals, the drama, and above all, the most superbly petty celebration in Premier League history. Absolute scenes pic.twitter.com/HWQBX9hOg1
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) February 26, 2021
Celebrating a goal in a huge Old Firm derby at Parkhead in 1998, Gazza managed to get himself death threats from the IRA after playing an imaginary flute, a provocative symbol of Loyalist supremacy.
“The Celtic fans were harassing us and so I did The Sash thing… and then I got the letter from the IRA threatening to kill us,” he explained in his autobiography.
“The police gave me something to look under my car for bombs and told me to get the family to board up the house in case someone shot through the windows.”
“I look back on the dentist chair incident before Euro 96, and the way we were castigated by the media for it, and smile,” Paul Ince told us. “It was ridiculous, but it brought us closer together.”
Prior to 1996, the media went berzerk after it was revealed the England squad were led partying by Gazza in a Hong Kong bar, a night which included him taping himself to a dentist’s chair and having spirits poured down his neck.
After scoring *that* goal against Scotland in England’s second game of the tournament, Gascoigne celebrated in style, lying on the floor as team-mates squirted a drink into his mouth.
Goals from Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri led Switzerland to a vital World Cup win over Serbia, but the duo’s celebrations caught the headlines as they paid tribute to their homeland, Kosovo.
The state declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbs do not recognise this and tensions between the two are still high.
Shaqiri and Xhaka both celebrated with the ‘Albanian eagle’ and faced potential two-match bans for celebrating with a political message – before they escaped with just a fine.
“Frankly, my opponents did not interest me at all,” Xhaka said after the match. “It was for my people, who always supported me. For those who did not neglect me, in my homeland, where my parents’ roots are. These were purely pure emotions.”
Amid a lot of criticism from Ipswich supporters, McCarthy celebrated in wonderful fashion when his side took the lead in the East Anglian derby against Norwich.
McCarthy stormed out of his dugout and followed an aggressive fist pump with a brilliantly executed lengthy “f*ck off” aimed at the fans.
Ipswich 1-0 up v Norwich. Nice and composed celebration from Mick McCarthy pic.twitter.com/VB7chfBsxK
— Tom Clarke (@_TomClarke) February 18, 2018
Luke McCormick cuts a controversial figure, returning to the game having been jailed for causing the death of two children while drink driving.
The goalkeeper was jailed in 2008, and his friend Norris displayed a handcuff gesture after scoring for Ipswich in a win over Blackpool – it was at the midfielder’s wedding where McCormick was partying prior to the crash.
Norris was fined an undisclosed amount by his club, before issuing a lengthy apology on the club website.
Having been accused by Everton manager David Moyes of regularly play-acting in matches, Suarez only had one thing on his mind when scoring at Goodison Park.
He raced over to the dugouts, where Moyes was stood bewildered, and threw himself to the floor with a wonderfully executed salmon dive.
Souness gained the nickname ‘Ulubatli Souness’ after planting a Galatasaray flag in the centre circle of arch-rivals Fenerbahce, liking himself to Turkish Siege of Constantinople hero Ulubalti Hasan.
It came as his side defeated them to win the Turkish Cup in 1996, and Souness is remembered as a legend for the incident – though not by Fenerbahce supporters.
The brave act almost sparked a riot among furious spectators after a tense derby, with Souness claiming he was motivated after Fenerbahce’s vice-President labelled him a “cripple” in the media following the Scot’s open-heart surgery.
In 2014, Galatarasary fans paid tribute to the iconic moment.
Wow! Gala fans mosaic recreates moment Graeme Souness planted their flag on the half way line after beating Fener… pic.twitter.com/2n6Mifc7Xa
— Steve Crossman (@Steve_Crossman) October 18, 2014
In 1995, Tait scored in the final as Birmingham lifted the Auto Windscreen Shield with victory against Carlisle at Wembley.
A huge Birmingham fan himself, he lifted his shirt to reveal a t-shirt which read ‘sh*t on the Villa’, obviously angering fans from across the city. He was fined two weeks’ wages by his club.
— Mark O'Neill (@Markoski86) April 23, 2016
Aizlewood netted what proved to be the winner amid vocal criticism from Leeds supporters in a Division 2 match against Walsall, while wearing the captain’s armband.
After heading in the game’s only goal, Aizlewood swore in the direction of the home fans, before being immediately substituted by manager Howard Wilkinson, the goal proving his last ever touch of the ball in a Leeds shirt.
Bendtner celebrated a brace against Portugal at Euro 2012 by lifting up his shirt to display a pair of “lucky pants” bearing the name of bookmaker Paddy Power.
FIFA and UEFA rules dictate players must not display sponsors’ logos at the finals of major tournaments, and the former Arsenal forward was incredibly banned for one match and fined a whopping £80,000.