One of the best parts of soccer is goal celebrations—the joy and elation, passion, pride, delight (and possibly relief) expressed after scoring a goal and securing the win.
There have been many famous goal celebrations over the years, all with their own unique signature. A few I consider iconic:
- Alan Shearer, one of the most prolific goal scorers of the modern era with a record 260 Premier League goals, kept his celebrations simple. He would simply run away from the goal with his right arm raised to the sky.
- 38-year old Roger Milla stole the hearts of every fan by scoring 4 goals during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, leading the first African national team to the quarter finals. He also dazzled us with a samba-styled dance at the corner flag which emanated pure joy.
- Though they were only playing in front of about 50 fans, Icelandic football team Stjarnan FC produced one of the most well-rehearsed goal celebrations of all time. The now infamous “Going Fishing” routine went viral and encouraged multiple other creative goal celebrations around the globe.
But no example could be more poignant than what happened this summer at the Junior Soccer World Challenge tournament. The world was shocked and touched by the unexpected win reaction of Barcelona’s Under 12 team. They ended the match 1-0 after scoring late in the game against Japanese team Omiya Ardija Junior. The young Barcelona team started to celebrate their victory—until they noticed how distraught the defeated Japanese players looked. Led by captain Adria Capdevila Puigmal they went to each opposing player and encouraged them with words, hugs and face slaps. In that moment, those 12-year-olds demonstrated more maturity than many professional athletes. They knew how to be humble in victory and taught us all a lesson in how to win well.
The mentality to “win at any cost” that is constantly drilled into our children from a young age can produce major imbalances in their ability to handle victories and defeats and to demonstrate good sportsmanship. From what is portrayed in media to what they witness on the sports field, our children are bombarded with the message that winning is everything and second place is the first loser.
This ethos is dangerous. It creates dissatisfaction with their great efforts if they do not result in victory. How many times have we seen the glum faces of silver and bronze medalists on the Olympic podium? Why is second and third place met with such great displeasure? They shouldn’t be!
In his 1910 poem “IF”, Rudyard Kipling wrote: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same – then you’ll be a man my son!” There is a danger in being overly invested in either victory or defeat. Letting our emotions ride on either one produces unhealthy results.
The Bible has plenty to say on this subject. These are just two examples that come to mind.
That Barcelona team of 12-year-olds knew how to be humble in victory and value others because they were “lowly in spirit.” They knew they could just as easily have been on the other side of that defeat, and that knowledge gave them empathy for the players who were.
Enjoy the game of soccer and all it has to offer. If you have the chance, coach your children in the sport and help them grow – but never lose sight of the fact that our aim as parents is to create men and women of God.
May our greatest celebration be that our children grow up into biblically grounded adults, strong in both word and deed in Jesus’ name.