Soccer is full of amazing moments — the skillful dribbling, the insane goals and the celebrations that become iconic in the sport’s history.
Sometimes, the goal celebration becomes more than a forgotten moment in a sequence of madness. Some celebrations go down in history, like when Mario Balotelli lifted up his jersey to reveal a shirt underneath, asking “Why always me?”
Then there are the celebrations that become synonymous with the player — think Lionel Messi and his two fingers pointed toward the heavens, Kylian Mbappe’s folded arms stance or Cristiano Ronaldo’s spinning jump and bellowing “Si!”
Given the cancelation of sports for this season, I’ve had a lot of time to thoroughly analyze many different soccer celebrations. Without further ado, here are my favorite celebrations in soccer, ranked.
- The Airplane
Players have been doing “the airplane” — one of the most classic celebratory gestures in soccer — since the beginning of time. From Roma’s Vincenzo Montella in the early 2000s to Thierry Henry with the New York Red Bulls, the airplane still remains one of the most fun and common celebrations.
The airplane is my go-to celebration (for when I score in my dreams) — I stretch out my arms and run around, and then just before reaching the corner flag, I’ll jump up while pumping my arm in the air.
After all, who doesn’t want to fly?
- The “Tear Your Jersey Off in Jubilation”
Imagine this: you’ve just scored the winning goal in the World Cup Final and the crowd goes absolutely nuts. You start running in any direction, rip off your jersey and proceed to get mobbed by your teammates as the stadium — and the entire world — erupts.
Two of the most classic examples of this celebration came in two separate World Cup Finals. First, we had Brandi Chastain in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final after she coolly scored the winning penalty in a shootout against China. Chastain proceeded to pull off her jersey and fall to her knees in disbelief, a move which would later garner opinions from seemingly everyone on the planet. The pure emotion on her face was evident for all to see, and that moment is one of my favorites in all of sports.
Then, in 2010, Andres Iniesta became the hero for Spain when he broke the deadlock in extra time against the Netherlands by volleying the ball into the back of the net. He took off sprinting toward the touchline and ripped off his jersey with an unmatched intensity, revealing a shirt underneath which honored his late friend, Dani Jarque.
An ultimate act of passion, the jersey celebration remains unmatched in its intensity of pure emotion.
- The Synchronized Group Celebration
Planned group celebrations — when performed properly — can be oh so fun to watch. Players love to show off their dance moves after goals, and we’ve seen the South African team in 2010, France just having fun against Korea last summer and even Neymar and Dani Alves breaking it down for Barcelona. Never forget when the U.S. pretended to make snow angels on a sunny day in 2012 against Canada.
And one of the coolest synchronized celebrations ever, Iceland’s Viking thunder clap at the 2016 UEFA Euros, still gives me chills every time I go back and rewatch it.
Meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has proven himself to be quite the celebration planner in recent years, pulling out Batman and Robin masks with Marco Reus at Dortmund. And starting last season, he has teamed up with his Arsenal striking partner Alexandre Lacazette to do a bowing handshake after each goal.
- The “Alex Morgan Sips Tea” Celebration
To say the United States Women’s National Team brought it during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup would be the understatement of the century. The team took the world along for an incredible journey, demolished the competition and produced some iconic moments on its way to a fourth World Cup trophy.
While we were of course blessed with Megan Rapinoe’s epic pose celebration, team captain Alex Morgan broke the internet with her bold celebration in the semifinal. After scoring a header against England, Morgan cheekily pretended to sip some tea — a brilliant, hilarious and amazing move by the star striker.
I don’t care what anyone else says, this celebration is the perfect amount of clever, petty and entertaining.
- The Classic Knee Slide
The knee slide celebration can either go really wrong or really right, as we’ve seen over the years. But when it goes right, it just looks like a seamless work of art. Players just glide on the wet grass with their arms outstretched — it’s beautiful, really.
Honorable Mention: The Backflip
To this day, I still don’t know how soccer players have the energy to produce a backflip right after they’ve sprinted the length of the field and scored a goal. But Sam Kerr, Nani, Obafemi Martins and many more have consistently wowed us over the years making this move their signature celebration. In this case, though, sometimes the celebration is better than the goal. But regardless, don’t try this trick at home, kids.
The Sports Girl is a weekly column that features a girl’s take on sports. Yes, a girl. Yes, on sports.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 6, 2020 e-print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]