Are Goal Celebrations Getting Out Of Hand?

Footballers’ goal celebrations have evolved rapidly over the years, and it is now far more likely to see a carefully choreographed performance than an impromptu outpouring of emotion from a goalscorer. From Robbie Fowler’s infamous ‘snorting’ of the touchline to Emmanuel Adebayor’s length of the pitch sprint to gloat in front of Arsenal fans, the potential for goal celebrations to cause controversy is something which the footballing authorities are abundantly aware of.

With that in mind, how long is it until messages printed on undershirts are outlawed? The ‘Pray 4 Muamba’ shirts which many players celebrated with in support of the Bolton player were touching but there is nevertheless always scope for inflammatory comments to be displayed.

Manchester City have been at the heart of the recent spate of message-emblazoned shirts, beginning with the tongue-in-cheek ‘Why always me?’ shirt which Mario Balotelli unveiled after scoring in the Manchester derby last season. The start of this season has already seen Carlos Tevez reveal two messages in reference to where he grew up, and Samir Nasri celebrate his winning goal against Southampton by revealing ‘Eid Mubarak’. While these messages are fairly innocuous, some fear that controversy is just around the corner.

There appears to be particular worry over the potential minefield to be navigated if such messages become vehicles for political or religious statements. After all, it is only too easy to envisage a player, especially the likes of Tevez, revealing a message in support of Argentina’s claim to the Falklands and the public outrage it would cause.

I would like to believe, perhaps somewhat naïvely, that between the players and the kit men making these shirts there is the judgment to decide what is acceptable and what is not. However, cynics will always point to the poor judgment exhibited by footballers in general (think of Ashley Cole shooting a youth team player with an air rifle or Balotelli’s various misdemeanours) and state the obvious: that the risk of allowing these displays, albeit a very small risk, outweighs the gains (if any) from allowing them. The only possible gain can be in messages of support like those for Muamba, and in reality the vast majority of the celebrations are simply inane and gratuitous. Moreover, footballing purists would undoubtedly like these celebrations banned simply because, in their view, they have no place in football. Sadly, I have to agree with them on this one.

Euro 2012: Team of the Tournament

To celebrate the end of Euro 2012, the Coin Toss selects its team of the tournament. See if you agree with our selection below by clicking on the gallery:

Euro 2012: Heroes and Zeros – Semi Finals

So Euro 2012 is almost done and dusted with Spain and Italy set to contest the final in Kiev on Sunday. It took a penalty shootout to separate Vicente Del Bosque’s men from their Portuguese neighbours, while Cesare Prandelli’s side stunned the Germans with a brilliant display. Here’s who caught the eye in this round:


HEROES

Mario Balotelli – How can you describe the man? Super Mario lit up the semi final with two stunning finishes, showing just why if he puts his mind to it, he can truly be one of the best players in the world. Balotelli even worked hard for his side, tracking back and chasing the ball, something that will have shocked everyone at Manchester City. His header was well taken, but his second was simply sensational, firing past Manuel Neuer in the German goal before ripping off his shirt ensuring that if he fails in football, there’s always a gig out there for him as a stripper. Balotelli said before the game he never celebrates his goals, but this was a display of raw emotion from a young man who’s never out of the headlines. Perhaps this could be the moment for Mario to grow up and fulfil his obvious potential. Or maybe he’ll get sent off on Sunday. You just never know.

Cesc Fabregas – Nerves of steel that boy. He might not be completely sane talking to the ball on his run up, but it sure worked for him. Spain seem to finally have put their penalty hoodoo behind them, winning the last two in a row. If only they could teach England how to do it. Or just give us their players.

Andrea Pirlo – Another masterclass from the maestro. The Germans picked Toni Kroos to try and mark him out of the game, but Pirlo still dominated the midfield, outplaying the Germans’ Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil and starting the move that led to Balotelli’s opening goal. He even showed his defensive qualities, clearing one off the line from Mats Hummels. Calls for the Ballon d’Or may be premature, indeed the footballing world seems to simultaneously fall into orgasm every time Pirlo even breathes at the moment, but he’d certainly be a worthy winner of player of the tournament. Majestic.

Cesare Prandelli – Credit has to go to the coach for Italy’s performances this tournament. They were written off before it had even begun, losing 3-0 to Russia in a warm-up and struggling with the accusations of match fixing. No one expected them to really get this far and Prandelli’s tactics have to be praised. He set out to beat the Germans in Warsaw rather than just contain them like other Italian sides might have done previously and got his just reward. England should perhaps take note.

Gianluca Vialli – Slotted onto the BBC sofas effortlessly, adding a touch of class to proceedings whilst providing us viewers with some insightful analysis,. And therefore we didn’t have to listen to Alan Hansen. Joy of joys!

ZEROS

Germany – Arrogance is never a nice personality trait. And the Germans displayed it in abundance on Thursday. If resting their key players for the Greek game wasn’t enough, Joachim Loew’s side seemed to have simply decided they were going to beat Italy by default. They paid for it as well, Italy stunned them as the Germans started unusually sluggishly and therefore it’s once again only the semi finals for this talented young side. Hopefully they’ll have learnt their lesson.

Portugal’s penalty order – Don’t leave your best penalty taker till last. Ever. Ronaldo should have stepped up earlier to give Portugal the advantage. Instead, Paulo Bento’s order meant their talisman and dead ball specialist didn’t even get the chance to take one and could only watch on in horror as Bruno Alves thumped his effort against the bar.

Mark Lawrenson – Listening to his ‘punditry’ is almost as painful as hearing someone drag their nails down a blackboard. I lost count of the number of times he said ‘surely not’ in a sarcastic voice, while he’s doing a good job of defining the phrase ‘stating the obvious.’ If ITV signed him up to do a show with Adrian Chiles, I’d wager it would be even less popular than watching Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Mats Hummels – Back down to earth with a bump for the German centre back, who’s stock has significantly risen this tournament. However, the Borussia Dortmund man had a bit of a shocker in Warsaw, defending poorly, while also missing his side’s best chance. He’ll be deeply regretting his performance now, while the pundits can put away their constant admirations towards him for now.

Spain and Portugal – For such an eagerly anticipated game, this was a massive disappointment. I don’t buy into the new ‘Spain are boring’ concept that is now doing the rounds, but they certainly haven’t dazzled this tournament. Portugal were never going to play all out attack given their inferiority to their rivals, but this game was so poor, I’m surprised the BBC managed to put together a highlights package for the end of game montage.

Manchester City: A Striking Problem

£120 million. The figure the hacking scandal has cost Rupert Murdoch so far. The figure the Hunger Games was expected to make at the box office on the opening weekend. And also the figure Roberto Mancini has spent assembling his strikeforce at Manchester City.

Although this might not be the exact to the penny, indeed no one knows quite how much Carlos Tevez actually cost the club (blame third party agents), it shows just how much of Sheikh Mansour’s money has gone into delivering an attack capable of winning the title. And that’s without counting the ones that have failed at the Etihad Stadium, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz and Jo. However, even if City were still in with a chance of winning the title, questions would still remain over their forwards. Sergio Aguero aside, it’s not been a particularly good year for the rest.

 

Edin Dzeko, despite flashes of brilliances, continues to be woefully inconsistent, and rather like his club of late, ineffective in the big games. The Bosnian disappointed all onlookers after his switch from Wolfsburg last January, especially considering his excellent record in the Bundesliga. The kinder members of the football community put it down to struggling to settle in England. Still, it looked as if Dzeko had cracked it at the start of this season. Goals in the Community Shield and the opening game against Swansea were followed with that four goal salvo at White Hart Lane that included the ‘perfect’ hat-trick. He subsequently won August’s player of the month. However, as the season has worn on, Dzeko has found himself increasingly marginalized. 16 starts and 14 substitute appearances in the Premier League suggests Mancini himself can’t decide whether Dzeko is good enough for City’s starting XI and his lack of important goals has made the Bosnian a failure since his move to England. Some might suggest that a return of 13 for the season represents good business given Dzeko plays predominantly as the second striker, but considering the start he had and the number of chances he regularly blazes over the crossbar, many fans wearing the blue shirt wouldn’t be disappointed to see him shifted on this summer.

It would be interesting to take Sergio Aguero out of the City equation. The Argentine has bagged 24 goals in all competitions, including 17 in the Premier League that leaves him third behind the Premier League’s other two supreme marksmen, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney. At times this year, it feels like Aguero, along with playmaker David Silva, has carried the Blues, with the rest of the team relying on the pair to produce pieces of individual brilliance to unlock defences. More often than not, they have come up with the goods, but this appears to have taken its toll on both players. Aguero, and Silva especially, have looked jaded in recent weeks, overused and overplayed, victims to the lack of support from the cast around them. Mancini realises his replacements lack the star quality of his prize duo and the Italian has therefore been reluctant to leave either Silva or Aguero out of the side. He has paid the ultimate price. It’s no coincidence that City’s recent run of shocking results has come at a time when neither Aguero nor Silva can find their early season form. Still, there’s no doubting Aguero has been a hit since his switch to Manchester, £35 million looks a snip for a forward with such prodigal skill (take note Liverpool) and the real issue here is whether City can resist the advances of Real Madrid in the summer.

As for Carlos Tevez, well enough has been written and said about him already. Whether he can actually be included in this list anyway is debatable, indeed he has started just one Premier League game this season, whilst making seven appearances off the bench. Tevez has seen more green on the golf courses of Argentina than England’s football pitches this year. The fact Mancini has turned back to the Argentinean shows his desperation regarding City’s strikers. There’s no doubting Tevez’s obvious ability, indeed he carried the side last year, offering a goal scoring threat and workmanlike attitude that so endeared him to City’s fans in the first place. But his attitude and unprofessionalism has let the club down and he should be moved on in the summer without any hesitation. If anyone will take him…

So that leaves us with one more. A man who seemed to be making himself universally popular in Englandwith his maverick antics. The Balotellisms have dominated the headlines this year, mainly for the right reasons. They have distracted attention away from his performances on the field though, which is why some people find it surprising that the Italian has found the net 17 times in 36 games for the club this year. Given how used we are to hearing Mancini talk about how disappointing his egotistical star has been, that is a decent return for someone who has struggled to break into the starting line-up. It’s all gone pear-shaped for Mario again recently though and the red card against Arsenal seems to be the final straw for his manager. You only have to look at his teammates’ reactions to his stupid, potentially leg-breaking challenge on Alex Song to recognise how frustrated they are becoming with Balotelli. Joe Hart was visibly angry later after his sending off, while to a man, they ignored him as they walked off the pitch at half-time with Balotelli lying on the ground ‘injured.’

Mancini has staked his reputation on being able to handle the volatile Italian, but he is currently failing. He was refreshingly honest in the post-match interview, suggesting his enigma is not far away from wasting his incredible talent. He also told reporters that Balotelli would ‘probably’ never play for the club again. Mario is incredibly exasperating. This season finally seemed like the year he’d grown up, mixing class with some of his ridiculous stories, especially after his display at Old Trafford. Football needs characters like Mario, but the last couple of weeks show how much of a liability he is. To win the Premier League, a side needs unity as well as quality, and unfortunately while Balotelli possesses plenty of the later, he also distinctly damages the former. Whether he will leave the Etihad remains to be seen, but wherever he plays next season, Mario needs to grow up. And fast.

This ‘awesome foursome’ leaves Mancini with a huge problem next year. It’s possible three of the four could move on, maybe even all four if anyone would take Edin Dzeko. Tevez has to be sold for the sake of dressing room harmony however good he is, while it appears Mancini has already made up his mind on Balotelli. No one wants to see Aguero leave, but he may find the charms of returning to Madrid, albeit with Real, too alluring. Don’t be surprised therefore to see a bunch of new faces leading the line at the Etihad next season. Let’s hope Mancini makes wiser choices this time around.