5 crazy football celebrations that nearly sparked a riot

Don’t worry, Adebayor is in there!


It might not be one of football’s most volatile derby games, but that didn’t stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic doing his damnedest to stir up trouble during El Trafico in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The towering Swede celebrated both of his goals right in front of the LAFC supporters’ section amidst a chorus of boos.

Fortunately for Zlatan, he was more likely to be pelted with a half-eaten hotdog than coins at the less than intimidating Banc of California Stadium.

However, there have been several other infamous incidents when overzealous celebrations almost incited a riot. We take a look at the top five…

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Adebayor’s 100m sprint

In 2009, Togo international striker Emmanuel Adebayor became the latest Arsenal player to defect to big-spending Manchester City, making himself public enemy number one in North London in the process.

When the two sides met at the Etihad that season, Adebayor was subjected to a torrent of abuse from the visiting supporters every time he touched the ball.

Recalling the incident, Adebayor said: “I remember getting to the stadium and Arsenal fans were there. All I heard was the chant, ‘Your mother is a whore and your father washes elephants.’

“My father worked in currency exchange and my mother is a businesswoman. But this went on and on. So how can I reply? I didn’t have a voice to go against thousands of supporters.’

After 80 minutes of enduring their taunts, Adebayor nodded home to give City a 3-1 advantage. His immediate reaction was to sprint the length of the pitch before greeting the Arsenal supporters with a knee-slide. Everything that wasn’t bolted to the ground was chucked at the striker as the stewards struggled to restrain the irate Gunners fans.

Qui est Cantona, qui est Cantona

It would be fair to say that Leeds fans were less than amused when cult-hero Eric Cantona made the cross-Pennines switch to arch-rivals Manchester United in November 1992.

During the previous campaign, the enigmatic Frenchman helped The Whites to the First Division title at United’s expense, but a dispute with boss Howard Wilkinson meant he was surplus to requirements.

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cantona for £1.2m and the rest, as they say, was history.

Early in the 1996/97 season, Cantona returned to Elland Road and took centre stage almost from the get-go. United were already 1-0 up when David Wetherall hauled down Jordi Cruyff in the box.

Cantona, who’d never missed for the Reds, dragged the resulting penalty wide of Nigel Martyn’s post – much to the delight of the Leeds fans.

However, the fiery Frenchman bided his time until the 77th minute before exacting his revenge on the Elland Road faithful. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer picked out the controversial frontman at the back post where Cantona was able to steer the ball home from a tight angle with the outside of his foot.

Momentum carried Cantona to the advertising hoardings where he came face-to-face with the home fans who used to sing his name. Instead of making his way back to the centre circle, he raised his arms and goaded them.

Furious Leeds supporters surged forward until their former hero was dragged away by teammate Ryan Giggs.

Cantona went on to win a fourth Premier League medal that season, while Howard Wilkinson’s eight-year tenure at Leeds ended shortly after that game.

Gazza’s flute

How could you inflame Britain’s most intense and politicised derby game further? Just add Gazza.

In 1998, Paul Gascoigne was warming up as a substitute during a typically volatile Celtic v Rangers clash at Parkhead.

After receiving a torrent of abuse from the Celtic fans, Gazza mimicked playing ‘The Sash’ on an imaginary flute. The song is played by the Orange Order during their marches and it’s safe to say, not one that would feature on any Celtic fan’s playlist.

Given the highly charged atmosphere during Old Firm games, it’s not farfetched to say Gazza could have started a riot.

The then 30-year-old England international pleaded ignorance to the significance of the song when reprimanded by the SFA. Gascoigne was fined £40,000 and given a written warning as to his future conduct by the IRA.

Even Gazza had the sense to realise his days in Glasgow were numbered and he signed for Middlesbrough just two months later.

The Chronicles of Jose Mourinho

When it comes to provocative and antagonising sh**housery, Jose Mourinho has no equal in world football.

The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ has compiled an extensive back catalogue of infamous incidents with opposition supporters over the last 15 years.

The Portuguese’s introduction to English football public came in the Champions League in 2004 with Porto at Old Trafford. Costinho’s late equaliser sent Mourinho sprinting down the touchline to celebrate with his players – much to the annoyance of United fans.

In 2005, now boss of Chelsea, Mourinho enrages Liverpool fans with a ‘shush’ gesture after Steven Gerrard’s late own goal drew Chelsea level in the Carling Cup Final.

Mourinho antagonised the cules in 2010 when he stormed onto the Camp Nou pitch shaking his fist in victory after guiding Inter past Barca in the semi-finals of the Champions League. However, Mourinho’s petulant antics were cut short by whoever was operating the stadium’s water sprinklers.

And most recently in 2018, Mourinho celebrated a last-gasp United victory in Turin by cupping his hand to his ears as he walked onto the pitch, with a grin on his face as he turned and nodded at the Juve supporters.

He was confronted by Leonardo Bonucci before he was escorted down the tunnel by his own players.

‘Ulubatli Souness’

Graeme Souness became an instant hero when he celebrated Galatasaray’s win at the home of Fenerbahce by planting his club’s flag in the centre circle at the end of the 1996 Turkish Cup Final.

A large Galatasary flag was handed out to the victorious players and each of them took turns to wave the flag with the celebrating away support.

But, Souness had other ideas. The moustachioed Scotsman grabbed the large Galatasaray flag and ran half the length of the pitch to plant the flag in the middle of the centre circle.

It took him four attempts to pierce the hard turf before the flag pole sunk into the ground.

The stadium still had pockets of Fenerbahce supporters inside the ground and upon seeing Souness plant the flag, those who were left tried to get onto the pitch. They were prevented from doing so but it didn’t stop them from pelting the pitch with flares, coins and lighters, all aimed at former Rangers boss.

The incident earned the Scotsman the nickname ‘Ulibatli Souness’ after comparisons with Ulibati Hasan, who was killed as he planted the Ottoman flag during the Siege of Constantinople in 1453.

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