As Pakistan edged out India in a hard-fought semi-final of the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, some of the Pakistani players allowed emotions to get the better of them as they engaged in over the top celebrations. What was supposed to be a momentous occasion for Pakistan hockey turned into a full blown controversy. The victorious Pakistan players went berserk in front of Indian fans, who had turned up in large numbers to cheer the home team. After a thrilling 4-3 win, probably fueled by the pumping adrenaline, the visitors took off their shirts swinging them wildly in air, asking Indian fans to take a look at the scoreboard and even flashed their middle fingers.
An outburst of emotion was expected from the Pakistan hockey players after pulling off a win in the dying moments of a high pressure match. Probably, spectators inside the 7000-capacity Kalinga stadium, some of them who had been queuing up since the early hours of Sunday morning hoping to see a famous Indian win, gave the visitors some stick during the course of that match. Also, Pakistan endured a painful loss against India in the gold medal match of the Asian Games at Incheon. It was this pent up frustration that possibly led to such an immature reaction from the Pakistani players.
However, athletes reacting to moments of triumph with controversial celebrations or with gestures that rub off fans, opponents, or media the wrong way is nothing new. Sportsmen have often been granted a license of freedom to express themselves on the field. Some of them, though, have gone overboard during their moment of elation.
Here, we chronicle some of the memorable yet controversial celebrations enacted by sportsmen over the years.
The Indian skipper famously brandished his jersey atop the Lord’s balcony when India beat England in the memorable Natwest Trophy final in 2002. The Men in Blue pulled off a famous win chasing a tough total of 326 runs despite losing five wickets for 147. Ganguly's celebration was a retort to Andrew Flintoff's shirt-waving celebration after winning an ODI match in India helping England to tie the six-match series 3-3.
England cricket team
An Ashes series is undoubtedly the most important cricketing event in the careers of England and Australian players. After clinching the 2013 Ashes series at home, three England players allegedly urinated on the Oval pitch after the fifth Test. An Aussie journalist identified the three cricketers as Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson. The players came under scrutiny and received severe criticism from all quarters for their juvenile behaviour. The entire England team then issued an apology without confirming the incident.
Women's World number one Serena Williams broke into little jig of the 'Crip Walk' dance when she beat rival Maria Sharapova to win a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The American was slammed for glamorizing gang culture with her rendition of the 'Crip Walk' on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon, first made famous by a Los Angeles-based gang The Crips, who garnered a notorious reputation for affiliation with the Mafia.
The ever controversial French striker Nicolas Anelka further added to his reputation during his stint at West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League. The former Arsenal and Real Madrid striker made an anti-semitic ‘quenelle gesture’ at the Hawthorns after scoring a goal. That gesture was deemed offensive to religious sentiments (Jews). The club management sacked Anelka and he was handed a 5-match ban by FA and FIFA. He now plays in the Indian Super League.
Paul Gascoigne has often been considered as a flawed genius. Probably, no British football has courted many controversies as the flamboyant Gascoigne throughout his career. Celtic versus Rangers is considered the biggest game in Scottish football. In 1998, during an Old Firm derby, Gazza pretended to play the flute of Orange Order marchers , considered as a Loyalist symbol, in front of Catholic Celtic fans when he scored for Rangers. The midfielder was handed a fine of £20,000 by his club. Though, the death threats never stopped since that day.
Gary Neville's love, passion and loyalty for Manchester United is well documented. The right-back earned a nickname 'Red Nev' for during his career at Old Trafford. He even has a song after him that United fans love chanting - "Gary Neville is a red, he hates scousers".
During a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford, Neville ran 60 yards to celebrate a match-winning goal by Rio Ferdinand, in front of the travelling Scousers. The defender was fined £5,000 for goading the Liverpool fans by kissing the club crest repeatedly.
Neville was unapologetic for about his celebration and criticized the fine saying players were not robots and that he should be allowed to express their emotion, without crossing the line.
The Paris Saint Germain striker was sent off for his 'sniper' celebration in a Ligue 1 match. Cavani got the marching orders from referee Nicolas Rainville as he went down on one knee and pretended to fire a gun as part of his celebration. The ref's interpretation of the gesture was that the Uruguayan aimed the imaginary gun at the away fans. Undoubtedly, that was one of the most bizarre red cards in football history.