The England physio Gary Lewin is today nursing a dislocated ankle - the injury he sustained so ludicrously when the England players and the massed ranks of their support team celebrated their goal against Italy on Saturday night. Lewin’s World Cup is now over and people will say that these post-goal eruptions of mass on-pitch ecstasy are now getting completely out of hand, but for me the sight of wild, full-bench celebrations is part of the pleasing aesthetic of a World Cup.
They've been around for a long time. Certainly I recall videos of the Italy bench streaming onto the pitch after Marco Tardelli's goal in the 1982 final. At club level it tends to irritate me and, in most cases, it feels designed to be provocative to the opposition rather than a genuine celebration. However, the World Cup is different and if there’s one place showmanship and excessive emotions should be embraced it is in this competition.
Firstly, for many of the squad players it might be the only way they can get on to the pitch during the World Cup, and a desire to enjoy being there is understandable for the majority, who may only get one chance in their careers to travel to tournament. It's also an outpouring of emotion on a high-pressure stage, when everyone involved is under extreme scrutiny not just from normal fans and press but their entire nation until they are knocked out.
On another level, there's always something comically entertaining about seeing background staff hugging reserve keepers as oversized lanyards swing around their necks. No fans or press truly know what happens behind the scenes when squads and staff are holed up for a month during a tournament, so that moment just after a goal can give a glimpse into their world and relationships as they briefly lose control.
On-pitch celebrations have become more elaborate over the years, with players often going over-the-top and even going as far as attempting to copyright them but I don't think there is much harm in the bench joining in at the World Cup - if you are going to over-enthusiastically celebrate it might as well be there. There are also so many cameras and replays these days that it offers a much better option than the suited politicians politely applauding from their padded seat in the executive areas.
Players and managers are regularly criticised by fans for not caring about anything other than money, so it's comforting to know that a goal for their team on the biggest world stage means something to at least a few of them, no matter how they show it.
Tom Hocking is the News Editor of When Saturday Comes
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