There have been plenty of occasions that footballers have used their goal celebrations as an opportunity to make a statement.
Usually, it is to commemorate the birth of a child with the well-used thumb-in-mouth celebration, or sometimes it can be a tad more subversive – quite why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang used to pull out a Spiderman mask is anybody’s guess.
But on occasion, there is an opportunity for a player to make a political statement in front of thousands of watching eyes, and that’s exactly what Alejandro Bedoya did when opening the scoring for the Philadelphia Union against DC United on Sunday.
The Union captain fired the ball home and headed straight for a microphone by the side of the pitch, bellowing into it ‘hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence.’
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The game took place in the immediate aftermath of the two separate atrocities on US soil over the weekend. The incidents in Ohio and El Paso claimed 30 lives, and left a divided nation with an even wider chasm to overcome.
Bedoya is outspoken when it comes to gun violence. He is a former pupil at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida which was the scene of a mass shooting in 2018, and in the past has tweeted: ‘Seeing more thoughts and prayers bullshit. Words without actions are just worthless. America, it seems, is becoming a dystopian society.’
It’s not the kind of thing you would expect from a Peter Crouch or a Daniel Sturridge, that’s for sure, but this is not the first time that the worlds of football and politics have collided either.
Using Your Platform
There’s arguably no better time for a footballer to make a political stand than immediately after scoring a goal.
With thousands of fans cheering you on, and the lenses of stacks of cameras beaming you into the homes of millions watching worldwide, the scene is set for you to make your mark.
Robbie Fowler Supports the DoCKers
Robbie Fowler took the opportunity to show his support for the sacked dockers of Liverpool back in 1997. He scored in a European Cup Winner’s Cup game against SK Brann at Anfield, and upon lifting his shirt he revealed a message of support on a t-shirt which was a mickey-take of the famous Calvin Klein ‘CK’ branding. The frontman was subsequently fined by UEFA, but he had made his point.
Mohamed Aboutrika Sympathised With Gaza
Something similar happened to Mohamed Aboutrika when he netted for Egypt in a 3-0 triumph over Sudan at the 2008 African Cup of Nations. He revealed a t-shirt with the fairly mellow message ‘Sympathise with Gaza’, was subsequently booked by the referee and warned about his future conduct by the Confederation of African Football.
Shaqiri & Xhaka’s Double Headed Eagles
And you may recall the World Cup last summer, when Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka scored for Switzerland against Serbia.
They made a double-headed eagle shape with their hands, which is the national icon of Albania – both players are of Albanian-Kosovan descent. There is lots of tension between Serbians and Albanians in the Balkans, while Kosovo has gained independence from Serbia in recent years.
Gazza’s Flute Mime Earned Him Death Threats
Finally, we should mention Paul Gascoigne. Typically a figure of fun famous for his ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration at Euro ’96, even someone as genial as Gazza can get carried away with a political statement. After scoring in an Old Firm derby for Rangers against Celtic, the Englishman played an imaginary flute – a rather provocative display of Loyalist supremacy.
Gazza presumably later regretted his act. He was sent death threats by Celtic fans and the IRA, while the police gave him a device which checked for bombs placed on his car.
Pinning Your Colours to the Mast
While a celebration offers a fleeting glimpse at a player’s political stance, it is rare for them to go beyond such a brief moment of pinning their colours to the mast.
Maybe it’s an English thing. Frank Lampard once outed himself as Tory after meeting with David Cameron, and his popularity never recovered.
Those from the continent, meanwhile, are completely oblivious of their powers of responsibility. Paolo Di Canio gave a Nazi-esque salute to Lazio fans when turning out for the club, and did he mitigate it with some kind of level-headed response. Erm….“I am a fascist, not a racist. I made the Roman salute because it’s a salute from a comrade to his comrades and was meant for my people.” So no, not really.
You may remember a bit of a furore last season for Pep Guardiola and the yellow ribbon he wears pinned to his stylish sweater. That’s a symbol of solidarity for the people of Catalonia, an area of Spain seeking independence from the country itself.
There was a referendum in 2017 that saw the region ‘gain’ independence, although the Spanish government declared the vote unlawful.
That situation rumbles on, and Pep continues to proudly display his yellow ribbon despite the Football Association’s desire for him not to.
Taking Care of Business
There’s been no shortage of former players putting their money where their mouth is and standing for political representation.
Indeed, a number of ex pros have ascended to the highest level of political power. George Weah, the brilliant former AC Milan striker, is the reigning president of Liberia, Kaj Leo Johannesen is the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands and Kakha Kaladze is the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia.
Remember Roman Pavlyuchenko? The former Tottenham frontman hung up his boots and made his move into politics, and now stands as a city councillor in Russia. Let’s hope his policies are more accurate than his shooting.
On the other side of the political divide is the rather more prolific Romario, who is now part of the Brazilian Senate as a member of the Socialist Party, and is tipped for even greater success.
Perhaps Bedoya can follow in the footsteps of these famous predeccessors….