He's barely been a Barcelona player a month and he hasn't even trained with them yet, still less played a match for them, but already
According to reports -- and let's say that again: reports that perhaps shouldn't be taken too seriously, which hardly seem to be reflecting a huge groundswell of angry opinion but which have nonetheless caused a minor stir ... anyway, according to reports, Catalans are annoyed with Villa. Not because he's playing for Spain -- after all, so are
Villa, you see, celebrated by performing a bull-fighting pass. At the same time as some lobbies in Catalunya are trying to ban bullfighting -- not so much because of the cruelty to animals, although that provides a handy ethical justification, a comforting patch of moral high ground, but because it is seen as a symbol of Spain, where it is known as the "fiesta nacional."
So far, so silly. But worse was to come. Villa himself has, probably wisely, said nothing. Maybe he thinks it's too ridiculous to waste his time with and he'd be right. But others have tried to interpret his celebration on his behalf. In his defense, they said, it was not a nod of support for bullfighting. It was, rather, a nod to his sponsors, a copy of a celebration he does in a special World Cup advert for McDonald's. So that's all right, then.
Er, hang on a minute, no it's not. That's even worse. Has it really come to this? Players selling themselves to their sponsors at the moment in which they are supposed to overcome with joy? Bah! Has soccer got no heart? Has it got no shame? Has it got no soul?
Not that it's just a question of money. For some old fashioned -- and let's face it, miserable -- observers, the game sold its soul years ago. For them, celebrations long since turned tasteless. You can almost see them in their blazers and cravats, jowls wobbling in righteous indignation: whatever happened, they ask, to a firm handshake and a jog back to the half way line?
It has been wiped out, that's what. And rightly so. Even if the choreography has become pretty silly, the old handshake was just as bad -- a repression of joy, a stiff upper lip when emotion should have taken over.
Besides, even if celebrations have become silly, and others, like
Some are elaborately choreographed -- rarely more so than Aylesbury, nicknamed the ducks,
More to the point, celebrations have also provided some of the best images of the game, from
Like these ones ...
Arguably the one that started it all off, the original and still the best -- perhaps the most famous footballing dance of all time. Milla, a 38 year old who was only included in the Cameroon side on the say-so of the president of the government, who the rest of the team thought way past it, ended up being the star of the 1990 World Cup. Not just because of what he did on the pitch but because of that jig at the corner flag, often imitated but never bettered -- at least not in terms of sheer joy. Like David Villa,
Some players hug, some players kiss, and some players do what
A German with a sense of humor! When Klinsmann joined Spurs immediately after the 1994 World Cup he came with a reputation as a diver, the most heinous of crimes in English football minds. During one game in the U.S., a British commentator had accused him of being "taken out by the sniper in row z" and most people, fed by an irrational fear and loathing of all things German, loved to hate him. Soon they loved him. In fact, having assumed that Germans were humorless, functional creatures, many English people changed their opinion of an entire country based on this one moment. In his first game for Spurs, Klinsmann scored. And decided to
Klinsmann was not alone. Plenty of players, the sensitive souls, have dreamed up celebrations as a response to the nasty things that are said about them. Hundreds of players have done the old hand to the ear trick that says: "yeah, now what you tosspots?!" But if that shows a distinct lack of imagination, others have been more creative. After the press reported that
These ones were even better -- at least in terms of the message they sent out. Eto'o and Morales responded to incessant ooh-oohs from crowds by celebrating goals with monkey dances. "If they're going to treat me like a monkey, I'm going to dance like a monkey," said Eto'o.
It's not just the press and fans who get under player's skins, mind you. During one Premier League game, Hull coach
Forget all the imitations, from thumb sucking to pregnant gestures, from balls up shirt to some even "giving birth" to it. They all feel horribly naff. With hindsight so does Bebeto's celebration in honour of the birth of his first child at the 199 World Cup -- not least because of the monster he unleashed on us. But at the time it was endearing. Charming, even.
But when it comes to goal celebrations what you really want is unadulterated joy. Huge piles of wriggling bodies are always great -- the USA's bundle after their late, late goal against Algeria was perfect. A personal favorite is the collective madness that followed Real Madrid's last minute winner against Espanyol in the 2006-07 season, a goal that allowed them to stay in the title race. It had