At the World Cup, excessive celebration is celebrated

Pop singer Shakira will be performing at the World Cup closing ceremony on July 13, but soccer fans don’t have to wait that long to see Colombian hips shaking. The Colombian team, which faces host Brazil on Friday in a sizzling quarterfinal in Fortaleza, has become a global fan favorite and YouTube sensation because of its goal celebration salsa dance.

Pablo Armero, a defender for “Los Cafeteros,” got the hips going when he scored five minutes into Colombia’s opener against Greece on June 14. It was Colombia’s first World Cup goal in 16 years, and though it wasn’t the prettiest goal, the celebration that followed will go down as one of the most memorable in tournament history — right up there with Cameroonian Roger Milla’s flag dance in 1982, Brazilian Bebeto’s baby-rocking dance in 1994, Nigerian Julous Aghahowa’s six backflips in 2002, and American Brandi Chastain’s sports-bra revealing celebration at the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

It is so very difficult to score in soccer, especially at the World Cup, so when players do, they can’t contain their exuberance. They slide onto their knees. They fall flat on their faces. They run around with arms outstretched like airplanes. And they dance.

The NFL slaps athletes with a 15-yard penalty for “excessive celebration.” NBA and college basketball players are penalized for hanging from the rim after dunks. In soccer, over-the-top goal celebrations are not only allowed, they are a big part of the sport’s culture.

The goal celebrations are often more memorable than the goals themselves. That is the case with Armero, who is known for his flamboyant celebrations.

After the goal against Greece, Armero ran to the sideline, lifted his arms to the sky, began to shake his hips and shoulders, and was soon joined by teammates, who had clearly practiced the moves with him beforehand. From that moment on, every time a Colombian has scored, fans have been treated to a sideline hip-jiggling celebration.

Armero was asked about the dance, and he revealed that he first did it four years ago in Sao Paulo. He was playing for Brazilian club Palmeiras in a tight game against rival Santos, which featured Brazilian star Neymar, whom he will face again Friday.

“My Palmeiras team were playing Santos,” Armero told “They took the lead, with Neymar, Robinho and Ganso celebrating the goals by doing a little dance. But then we equalized. I put a cross in and my teammate Robert scored, and we started to dance, too. The opposition fans were shouting at us, but when they saw the way I was dancing, they started to laugh.”

The dance became known as “Armeration,” and it became a regular routine every time Palmeiros scored. He said he is thrilled to carry on the tradition with his Colombian teammates.

As the quarterfinals get under way, there already have been several unforgettable goal celebrations at this World Cup.

When Joel Campbell scored for plucky Costa Rica against Uruguay, the expectant father stuffed the ball under his shirt and began sucking his thumb. He said it was a tribute to his unborn child.

When Australian Tim Cahill scored, he did what he always does — made like a boxer and punched the heck out of the corner flag.

Ghana’s team, led by Asamoah Gyan, did a choreographed dance when it scored against Germany. Miroslav Klose, the 36-year-old German star, scored shortly thereafter, tying Brazil’s Ronaldo for the World Cup scoring record (15), and he celebrated by doing his signature front flip — nearly tripping on his landing.

England’s Daniel Sturridge celebrated his goal against Italy with a robot-like dance with his arms outstretched. He later told reporters how the celebration was conceived.

“To be honest, it happened when I was at Chelsea and I was with my cousins at my apartment,” Sturridge said. “It symbolizes a change in my life, the moment I moved to Liverpool when things completely changed and my life changed. I moved on from the Chelsea situation, went to Liverpool and things have changed for me. It was a bit of fun, the celebration, and it still is. I don’t take myself seriously on or off the pitch.”

More than 150 goals have been scored since the tournament began June 12, giving fans lots of opportunities to witness unbridled joy.

Over the years, players have come up with many creative ways to celebrate goals.

The enduring image of the 1982 World Cup is Italian midfielder Marco Tardelli running around with his fists clenched, screaming like crazy after scoring a crucial goal that led to Italy’s 3-1 win over West Germany in the final. Tardelli was not much of a scorer, so getting the ball in the net on such a huge stage was cause for a major celebration.

Milla, who was 38 years old when he played for Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup, scored four goals in that tournament and celebrated each by dancing around the corner flag. He is one of the first players to use the corner flag as a celebration spot, and it has become a common routine.

In 1994, two days after his wife gave birth to a boy, Brazilian player Bebeto celebrated his goal against Netherlands by pretending to rock a baby in his arms while swaying his hips samba-style. That move has been copied dozens of times over the years by other players with newborn babies. That baby, by the way, now plays professional soccer for Brazilian club Flamengo.

The 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea featured a few memorable goal celebrations. When Senegal’s Bouba Diop scored to upset defending champion France 1-0, he ran to the corner flag, took off his jersey, laid it on the ground and began to dance around the flag, as Milla had done 12 years earlier.

Also in 2002, South Korean Ahn Jung Hwan celebrated a goal against the United States by bending over into a speedskater’s stance and pretending to be skating. The gesture was a response to American speedskater Apolo Ohno winning a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics after a South Korean skater was disqualified.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star forward, was often accused of diving. Known for his self-deprecating sense of humor, he began diving to the ground, body outstretched, after scoring goals. The celebration, which many other players also do, became known as “The Klinsmann.”

Of all the goal celebrations in recent history, perhaps none was photographed more than that of Chastain, the U.S. women’s national team player, who, after scoring the winning penalty kick against China in the final, ripped off her jersey, swung it around and fell to her knees in just her black sports bra and shorts. The photo made the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, and has become one of the most iconic images in recent sport history.

What made her yank her shirt off in front of the entire world? “Momentary insanity,” she explained. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

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