The Fan: topless goal celebrations

In the old days, goal celebrations were gentlemanly affairs – and what's wrong with showing a bit of skin?

I wrote a really good column about a month ago. The joy was unconfined as I put it away, finished it all off – what a surge of emotion – so naturally I jumped in the air, ran round my room, then I tore off my shirt and rushed topless down the stairs.

The grandchildren, who were sitting drawing with their coloured crayons and eating muesli, their favourite occupation, carried on drawing and eating muesli, too young of course to understand how it feels to score a really good column. I went out in the street, looked for a crowd to jump into or even someone to hug. The postman was coming out of No 9 next door, so I jumped into his arms: what a fright he got, spilling all his Christmas cards. It was only then I realised how cold it was. I started shivering and couldn’t find my shirt or get back into the house, so had to ring the bell. My wife wouldn’t open the door. Eventually she appeared at the front window, holding up a yellow card, freshly coloured by the grandchildren.

I do so understand how players feel when they have scored a goal and I think it is really rotten that the ref always gives them a yellow card, two of which leads to being sent off, which is so unfair. What harm are they doing? How else are modern players meant to show their feelings?

In the old days, you walked back to the centre spot, perhaps the captain gave you a quick handshake, and that was it, on with the game. I have images in my mind from the 1960s of Bobby Moore with his shirt off, but this was after a game, swapping shirts with Pelé, en route to the dressing room.

Now we have all this emotional cuddling and kissing, not like traditional Englishmen. By the left, as my dad would have said, set the dogs on them. Either you have a group love-in, when they all pile on top of each other, often the whole team. Injuries do happen and it can take ages to unravel them, yet a ref never penalises them – oh no. Or you have an individual clutching his badge, which is totally phoney, as you know they will be off in the morning, given a half decent offer, or pointing at the name on his back, which is just showing off.

But when a single triumphant player takes his top off, he’s in the book. Why does he do it ? A need to wave something, feel free and naked, show off his toned torso, or just because he has seen others do it? That bit-part Morrocan player Oussama Assaidi, who came on for Stoke last week and got the winner against Chelsea in the 90th minute, had his top off in seconds and probably didn’t mind a yellow. A moment of glory, unlikely to be repeated.

But star Prem players do it as well, unable to help themselves. They don’t, after all, get many chances to let free. All those millions, the monster gated mansion, three top of the range motors, all the girls they can eat and yet they get so little joy.

Look at them, such miserable sods, bags under their eyes, weighed down with stress and pressure. So come on, we must allow them to celebrate that miraculous moment when the point of all their hard work and training, discipline and sacrifice, is at last achieved – the scoring of an actual goal. And yet they are not allowed the simple act of shirt-removing.

Oh it is so cruel. How they must envy those Geordie chaps at Old Trafford last week who spent the whole game half-naked, despite the bad weather, cheering on their heroes beating Man U. How did that start – fans stripping off? I don’t remember it in the past. Copying the goal-scorer? Proof they are tough and true supporters, unbothered by the cold? Showing off their torsoes? Ironically, as they are mostly lardy.

They don’t get penalised for doing it, which is good – in fact, I think they should be rewarded. Now that football is getting another £1bn from BT, where do you think it will go? Into the pockets of the players and agents. Yet it should go to the fans, if it is true as Barclays tell us that we are football. Reduce all ticket prices. With free tickets for topless fans.

Right, that’s another one done. No triumphant display this time. Boring, midweek away-draw sort of column ... 

Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates his second goal during a Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on 20 October 20 2012 in West Bromwich, England. Photo: Getty.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 12 December 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Power Games