Mike Henson searches for a shred of originality in this World Cup’s goal celebrations…
It’s not often you can accuse the Brazilians of a lack of imagination on the pitch. Even if they have been crunching rather inelegantly through the low gears so far in Germany, there have been plenty of party pieces to decorate their progress. And, just as with England, you hope there is plenty more to come. After all it is their feints, flicks and general fancy footwork that make the job of the advertising executive on the Nike account a pretty simple one. Step 1: Throw Ronaldinho a football. Step 2: Pick upbeat summer dance music with samba as default choice Step 3: Turn on camara, dispense with any concern about plot or variety. Pretty soon the streets and playgrounds of Britain are reverberating to the sounds of cracking windows and tendons as young boys and inebriated men attempt to replicate said footage.
However the sight of Roanldo celebrating his goal against the Japanese with a raised hand and slight jog towards the corner flag was like the party beat at the heart of the side flatlining. A goal that should be the substance to all the sizzling flair was marked by a bloated, slow-motion reincarnation of Alan Shearer. When Adriano scored in the same game the signs looked decidedly perky. He raced to the sidelines, clearly looking for and expecting support from his teamates. Sure enough they ran to join him and it looked, for a second, as though all those training sessions hadn’t been entirely wasted on the trivialities of set plays and marking systems. But the collective expectations of football fans throughout the world were to be confounded. It was the old “cradling the baby” number.
Now as proud as young Adriano Junior will feel when he is old enough to watch and appreciate his father’s gesture, won’t he feel a trival miffed when he later sees that Bebeto first unveiled this little routine 12 years previously. The kid whose arrival was first honoured in this way is now on the verge of puberty. He probably has his own contract and boot endorsement already. This is all presuming that Brazilian Social Services haven’t taken the lad into care, considering the reckless childcare techniques that his father seemed to be warming up for.
Either way this year’s tournament is still seraching for its defining celebration. In 1982 there was Marco Tardelli’s wild ecstasy, 1970 saw Pele joyfully leaping aboard a teammate, 1990 was the year of the Roger Milla wiggle. Even if it was a dark portent of the failed drugs test to come, Maradona’s pie-eyed bellowing straight down the barrel of the camara lens in 1994 was terrifyingly brilliant. Unfortunately the search back through 2006’s action provides a very modest crop.
The Ivorians, as during the play itself, showed early promise. A team dance, complete with chant and thigh-slapping was unfortunately only afforded a couple of outings before the team succombed in Group C. Upon qualifying for the knockout stages, Ghana’s John Mensah revealed a t-shirt emblazoned with his own name and the brilliant legend “the Rock of Gibralter”. Brazil ensured that it was not to be seen again.
But, very quietly, Tuesday’s last game of the second round saw a small, but potently symbolic, gesture of victory slip before us. Upon the final whistle, France’s Senegalese-born midfielder Patrick Viera placed his finger before his lips and looked pointedly at the Spain dugout. Viera’s message to the opposition coach Luis Arragones that his racist description of his team-mate Thierry Henry would be neither forgotten or forgiven is one fitting for World Cup: the world’s biggest, and most passionately followed sporting event.