12 December ~ All right-thinking people must now accept that one thing in football has gone too far: the goal celebration. What started out as relatively innocent expressions of joy have now decayed into utterly self-regarding displays of egotism. I very rarely did much good on a football field, but I would have been miffed if I beat two players to cross it for a team-mate to tap in, and was then, in the act of congratulating him, handed-off like an inept rugby defender so my colleague could sprint 40 yards in order to gesticulate at the press box.
Other players have taken to the field with masks and other props secreted about their person in case they score, and now we have the spectacle of the YouTube celebration. Teams, one in Iceland in particular it seems, are designing group tableaux as celebrations, I guess with the explicit intent of getting themselves seen on web video sites. We’ve had players pretending to have heart attacks, be involved in kung-fu fights and. probably most famously, be a fish caught by an angler and held up for display. So one team indulges itself in the most puerile sort of horseplay while 11 other players, three officials and at least half the crowd stand there getting wet or cold and wishing they’d just get on with it.
I realise that many people like to see players go mad after a goal. Some even like to see a player show "emotion" by ripping off his shirt and jumping into the crowd. So I have the perfect solution. After a goal players should be allowed to celebrate in any manner they choose: shirt removing, 80-yard sprints, syncopated Busby Berkeley routines, anything they like. But the game should restart as soon as the conceding team can get the ball back to the centre circle – no matter what the scoring side are doing, or how ready or unready they may be. And buying time by pinching the ball from the net and kicking it into the stands will be punishable by a yellow card.
So if Rio Ferdinand wants to run the length of the pitch to make sure he’s on top of the huddle and thus most prominent in the photographs or Icelandic footballers want to re-enact the invasion of Normandy, all in the name of "emotion" and celebration, they can. I will enjoy the sight of their opponents kicking off and charging through a four-man defence towards goal, while the goalkeeper goes mad at his gleeful attackers who are having group sex somewhere near the corner flag.
There’d be no need for what some see as petty rules on provocation, pundits wouldn’t have to castigate referees for applying the letter of the law; but I and those like me would see more of the football we’d paid for or, at worst, comedy goals which quickly wipe the smiles from players going on as if they’d conquered K2 when they’ve shinned one in form four feet. That, I believe, is called a win-win. Aled Thomas