Passion killers

The trend in fake orgasmic goal celebrations is out of control and something needs to be done, according to Al Needham

Like everyone else, I thoroughly enjoyed Euro 2008, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. Sure, the football was great, the lack of lumpy Englishness refreshing, and the feeling that you couldn’t tear yourself away from even the 0‑0 draws (just in case the entire Turkey squad ran on at the last minute, scored the winner, then ran off down the tunnel leaving everyone else standing there) was palpable throughout. But there was something else. And it bugged me for weeks.

Finally, it dawned on me; when people scored in Austria and Switzerland, they did a strange thing; they looked happy. They ran about. They jumped in the air. Some of them even smiled. In short, Euro 2008 was devoid of the one true blight on British ­football – the Bad Actor Sex Face.

You only have to consult the back pages of any paper during the season to be confronted by the BASF. Match reports are positively littered with the visages of grown men bellowing and gurning in the manner of the cast members of Scum who told Mr Sands they’re going to the greenhouse for a “burn”. John Terry is a serial offender. So is Wayne Rooney, who was happy to scream at a camera in probably the crassest Nike advert ever (the one where he’s naked with a red cross daubed across his arms and torso, looking as if he’s being pecked by vultures upon the Tree of Woe, and is quite enjoying it). So is practically every other footballer from the Premier League to the Conference. Even David Beckham – who you’d expect better of, frankly – has started experimenting with it, although he looks a tad unconvincing and more like Dennis the Menace’s dad after a slightly less ­distasteful greenhouse-related incident.

So where did all this scrunched-up sexual anger-relief come from? Well, (unless, of course, you know better), the BASF was conceived at the 1982 World Cup, started by Falcão in Brazil’s match against Italy, and refined by Marco Tardelli in the final. In both instances, the reactions – pegging it across the pitch and screaming like a bastard – were genuine reactions of sheer relief, self-vindication, and outright joy. Football celebrations had crossed the line that separated “kids’ game” from “life and death”. And it looked mint.

It’s easy to blame Sky for everything that is wrong with modern football, so let’s do just that; is it any coincidence that, before they acquired Premier League rights, their only sporting output that attracted any significant viewing figures was wrestling, where competitors spend more time screaming at each other than actually doing anything about it? Before Sky completely dominated football in the late Nineties, the typical eye-catching goal celebration was an in-joke shared with a few million people. Tony Adams necking imaginary pints. Gazza in the dentist’s chair. Robbie Fowler simulating a nose-up. Footballers made tentative steps towards WWF-like mimicry a few years ago by nicking Hulk Hogan’s cupped-hand-to-ear celebration; when nobody pointed out how gormless they looked, they went for the full-on Ultimate Warrior pose; bellowing at unknown gods, striking redundantly pseudo-masculine poses, and snarling for no discernable reason.

Obviously, the dimmer fans are to blame, too. When a player pulls a BASF, he’s aping the tedious “fronting-up” gestures redolent of the section of the crowd who spurn nasal respiration, who spend most of Saturday night re-enacting the cover of Help! by the Beatles in market squares across the country before falling over. “Yes! I am one of the lads, just like you, even though I earn £60,000 a week more!” they attempt to convey.

I saw the highlights on the news when Stoke went up in May, and in the middle of the crowd, when it was finally over, a huge bald chap was BASF-ing away like he was physically reliving every difficult scene in all six series of Oz. This was probably the most exhilarating moment of his football-supporting life, and he looked as if he had just spent the entire game tattooing his name on the backside of a lawyer who had just gone in for a drink-driving offence and turned him into his “prag”. Whatever that means.

So, as we embark on another season, a plea to all professional footballers: I’m not asking for the return of handshakes as you jog back to the halfway line, but our children are starting to copy you, and it’s about someone thought of them. Throw the BASF into the dustbin of history. Ruffle each other’s hair, instead. Run along the touchline with a finger in the air. Do an aeroplane impression. Above all, look happy, you bastards – you won, didn’t you?

From WSC 259 September 2008