Is Romelu Lukaku's Career at risk for celebrating against Everton?
The recent fuss of Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku jubilating against his former team -Everton after bagging a goal against the Toffees at Old Trafford, has been a subject of deliberation, an object of hubristic reference and at some point become a condemned case to karma.
This is however surprising of fans to a player who gave his all throughout his stay at Everton. He chose to move on to another club with a record free of brawls with the club management, fellow teammates or the fans.
He even spares the club derogatory remarks upon his departure unlike some players who'd say things indirectly spiting the club they just left. Only for him to play against them and they cheer when he makes a loose pass, misses a chance, misplaces a spot kick and so on. They obviously enjoyed every bit of flaw as regards the player's touch on the pitch. Fine, he's no longer on their team. But this same set of fans go aloof, tagging him disrespectful and questioning his sense of loyalty, when he scores and takes on a reflex, yet mild jubilant gesture. Has Newton's law of gravity changed? Or does the pendulum keep swinging to one side?
The player's (Romelu Lukaku) banter has made fans steal from history's chest to justify their grievances towards the player's act.
Some have made references to soccer nemesis hunting down careers of players who dared celebrate against former teams. Robin Van Persie has been a good point of contact to assert the notion. The Dutchman who switched to the red half of Manchester, was phenomenal for the Red devils as he was pivotal to the club clinching the 13th premier league title for Sir Alex Ferguson's Era. Soccer fans however claim that his decline was as a result of his celebration against an Arsenal team in his second season, whose fans had rained boos on him until justice would take its course by granting him a goal, which he celebrated arms in the air. And truly, he had gradually faded out of limelight after a frustrating second season at Manchester United and his ill-fated move to Fenabarche.
Others even trolled former Manchester United player Danny Welbeck, who hasn't had it smooth since the celebration of his goal against the Red Devils, where he scored a crucial goal to see his former club out of the FA CUP competition. Arsenal did go on to win the competition, however without Danny Welbeck, who has since had his career hampered by long injury spells. To be candid, the two players are good references to buttress the horrid aftermath of celebrating goals against former teams if you ask me. However, perhaps all the air to needs is some more oxygen, maybe breathing would be easier.
As emotional as the game can get, it should be noted that it is business. To a large extent, things have to be professionally dealt with. Celebrating a goal is part of the game, and the fact that some players went down the drain post celebration of goals against their previous clubs, doesn't mean there is a hex placed on the act. There are other players who have done it and remained relevant in the football world, and constituted integral parts of teams.
A good example is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored for AC Milan against Intermilan upon his return from a spell at Barcelona. The Swede has since gone on to enjoy successful campaigns at Psg and Manchester United at present, despite some time of injury. Showing his class with goals and e exemplary leadership. David Luiz is another player who has maintained his controversial yet important relevance to the game despite celebrating a goal against Chelsea in the Champions League, after his big money move to Psg. The Brazilian's quality has seen him make a comeback to the Ink blue side of London. And he has since backed it up with stellar performances and important goals. It should be noted that David Luiz apologized after the match, saying his emotions got the better of him. But that was a good way to bail himself out of the social media clapbacks.
Yet, if to even go by the assertion that players who celebrate against former clubs tend to go down the drain, does that mean players who do not jubilate against their former clubs tend to go up the ladder? Adam Johnson felt treated unfairly at Manchester City and left for Sunderland where he got to score against the blue half of Manchester, yet didn't jubilate. Despite the goal giving his struggling Sunderland team, a glimmer of hope then, to aviod relegation. But he didn't celebrate a well deserved goal against a club who treated him badly. Meanwhile, has he found it easy in the soccer world ever since? Most soccer fans know how his story went.
Another player is Shaun Wright Philips.
The British player switched the Blue half of Manchester to join QPR after a miserable 2nd spell with the sky blue. He scored against them, and opted not to celebrate. But has since not featured in top flight football, with the footballer currently plying his trade with Phoenix Rising FC. So where lies the potency of the celebration or non celebration 'spell' ? So much to mention a few.
A player's celebration of a goal scored shouldn't be an issue to deal with. The player retains the right to celebrate or not. Respecting his former team by choosing not to celebrate is nice. But fans should not envisage the act as an obligation. The player has moved on, signed up for a different club, a new manager, and is saddle with new expectations, another responsibility and a different challenge. He should be allowed to jubilate if he chooses to. Without being crucified for it.
That a player doesn't jubilate or celebrate a scored goal doesn't prove his level of respect or loyalty. Nor does the fact that a player celebrates a scored goal against his former side, mark him disrespectful. Cristiano Ronaldo played against Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in the Champions League, which was also the Scotish manager's last. Spectators saw the desire and passion with which Cristiano Ronaldo played in the match, showing no emotions with the ball. He scored and chose not to celebrate, but truth remains that he had successfully taken a good part in wrecking the havoc which saw Manchester United out of the competition that season. Okay, they say he showed respect. But believe me, on my opinion that was just sheer hypocrisy and a good way to avoid social media smacks. We all know what scoring a goal means to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Thanks to a hardworking Phil Jones who did well in curtailing the Portuguese in that match, he'd have done a lot more damage.
Despite exhibiting an appealing level of respect and sense of loyalty by expressing his desire nor to play against Arsenal in pre match interviews, Thierry Henry went on to play against the Gunners in the Champions League in 2010. He was however hauled off in the second half, with many thinking his emotions were seemingly getting the better of his performance. His emotional connection to the Arsenal team was obvious. But his performance on the pitch was still crucial to Zlatan ibrahimovic scoring 2 goals.
However players that fall into such category and choose to jubilate should do so with respect. No matter what happens. For example, you don't leave a club like Arsenal, play against them, get to score, go before their fan stand and start shooting with your hands at the crowd. Knowing their nick is 'The Gunners', that is utterly outrageous and outright disrespectful.
In modern day football where the pay majorly dictates where to play, fans should expect less of such emotive acts and focus on getting results from the players at hand. Celebrating a goal against an old team is part of football, while not celebrating might be well classified as feigned show of loyalty or respect.
It is just one of soccer's theatrics to stir passion. The act is like intentionally decapitating someone with a sabre and appearing sober after the act. Does that fix the severed head back?
On a final note, to those criticizing Romelu Lukaku for celebrating against Everton, the fans had their share of the spoils by jeering and cheering at his mistakes. While he softly displayed his emotions with a 'banter' as the player described it. It was simply tit for tat. A set of fans who think they deserve respect from any player who had previously played for them should be ready to dish out the same respect by affording him a good atmosphere to play. Respect is Reciprocal.
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku might need earphones for the booes that await him when the Red Devils visit the Toffees at Goodson Park later this season or in any other domestic tournament.
Reviewed by Makinde Damilare, sports analyst