Goal Celebrations and Jersey Stripping
What feels better than scoring?
–Clint, are you a fan of wrestling and in particularly John Cena? I’ve seen you celebrate using the same trademarks he uses!?
-It’s in reference to ‘you can’t see me’. I wasn’t doing it because the wrestlers were doing it, just ‘you can’t see me’ because I scored. -From an interview with Clint Dempsey
The undershirt provides some explanation. The rule does not state that one has to reveal skin to receive a yellow card. The stripping itself is the offense, not what is revealed. If necessary, the message will be taken up by governing bodies not referees.
The undershirt can carry a message. Sometimes it’s political, but more often it’s a harmless shout-out or a tribute, an in memoriam. Andreas Inietsa’s World Cup-winning goal celebration and jersey strip was a tribute to his friend Dani Jarque, who died of a heart attack at age 26 the previous year. More recently, Tamir Cohen’s game-winning goal celebration against Arsenal revealed a silk-screened image of his late father. In the case of Iniesta, had he been wearing the “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros,” undershirt every game, unable to reveal his message, unable to realize it, during a game in which he didn’t score? Is the half ecstatic-half sober celebration initiated by the opportunity finally presenting itself after so many games and weeks as withheld private emotion, as “siempre conmigo”?
What about those who weren’t wearing an undershirt? What about those who wear an undershirt without a message? Where it’s not about admiring the classical form or communicating anything?
Jersey stripping most often occurs when scoring a goal or after a match. It can correspond to the two greatest moments in a match, although the losers, to a lesser degree, also go shirtless postmatch, bartering for an opponents sweat-soaked shirt in the even exchange of sportsmanship. Winning is euphoric, but it’s also a resolution that ushers in fatigue, aches, and recognition of opponent and fans. It’s a physical and earthly moment.
But scoring a goal is a densely packed euphoria, an exuberant brainlessness, a loss of self, and too overwhelming to be contained within the body and mind. The goal scorer is swept away in the sublime freedom and transcendent joy of the moment. Consumed by it, there’s nothing left of him to see, except for the sprinting peel along the touchline toward the corner flag as the head splits open, the mouth goes agape, and the first article of clothing comes off. How could a manager suppress or punish that?
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