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Happy New Year Edin Dzeko. But are FIFA's rules on goal celebrations too strict?

Manchester City player Edin Dzeko was booked for removing his shirt against Stoke City this week and it prompted some debate in media. So are FIFA missing the point with their stringent celebration rules?

Manchester City made light work of Stoke City in the New Year fixture this week despite a standout performance from Potters keeper Asmir Begovic. While the main talking points should have been the result for the most part post-game conjecture was based on the injury sustained by Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko’s booking for an ‘excessive goal celebration’.

The celebration in question; removing his shirt to reveal a hidden message. So what shameful message did the Bosnian reveal that would warrant him a yellow card?

‘Happy New Year’.

The issue raised debate on the Soccer Saturday panel with presenter Jeff Stelling clearly siding with the referee on the incident and Paul Merson believing Dzeko should have been reprieved. In fact the referee in question should not really be blamed; he has a job to do and unfortunately when a player removes their shirt a booking is a likely consequence. In that respect the striker must have expected to be on the end of a yellow card.

Yet on the other hand why is this rule in place?

If anybody was wondering here are the official rules from FIFA regarding the Celebration of a Goal:

‘While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.

Reasonable celebrations are allowed, but the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.

A player must be cautioned if:

• in the opinion of the referee, he makes gestures which are provocative, derisory or inflammatory

• he climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored

• he removes his shirt or covers his head with his shirt

• he covers his head or face with a mask or other similar item

Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence in itself but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible.

Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.’

While I can understand that gestures such as Emmanuel Adebayor deliberately running the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of Arsenal fans should result in a booking; or climbing a fence could incite fans in a similar way the idea that taking your shirt off could ‘incite fans’ seems flaky to me. Especially when it is a message such as Berbatov’s recently hilarious ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me The Ball’ or Steven Pienaar’s regular ‘God is Great’ communication.

It just seems to me personally a draconian rule that results in needless bookings and the stemming of passion, creativity and player-fan interaction from the modern game.

However there is the risk of time-wasting and indeed potential moments like this; Diego Forlan deciding it was time to play shirts versus skins against Southampton during his Manchester United days.

Needless to say it is clear what side of the debate I am on. While the referees have little choice but to book players who remove their shirt when it is done in the calm and non-provocative manner in which Dzeko did so common sense should surely prevail.

Happy New Year to you too Edin.

Do you think players should be booked for taking their shirt off or should the context of the celebration overrule?

image: © Bronski Beat

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