With soccer being a sport that has fewer points scored than many other sports, it’s understandable why scoring a goal is such an exciting event worthy of celebrating.
While strikers might be used to scoring, there’s always a massive buzz about finding the back of the net.
For some players, scoring a goal is a once-in-a-season experience, maybe even once in a lifetime, and seeing the sheer joy on the player’s face is an experience in itself. The fans go wild, the team celebrates, and sometimes the player adds to the celebration with a touch of flair.
Today, we’ll look at one of the most common goal celebrations, the knee slide. It’s not as theatrical as some of the others we’ll look at, but it caps a goal off nicely when it’s pulled off correctly.
It’s always better to try a knee slide when the pitch is wet, but a well-timed slide can be done in any conditions, though if you get it wrong, you’re face-planting into the pitch, which isn’t nearly as cool as a great knee slide.
Why Slide At All?
When the crowd is singing, and you’re heading over to the stands after scoring the winning goal, there’s no sweeter feeling than a knee slide, arms raised in celebration.
It’s a common sight to see players heading towards their own fans to join in with their excitement, and with a clear run of the pitch in front, sliding on your knees seems almost the thing to do.
It helps that other forms of celebration are often frowned upon; taking off your jersey is punishable, and a yellow card (or red, if you’re already on a booking) will swiftly follow if you forget. Raising your jersey to reveal a message or slogan on a T-shirt is also a bad idea.
Managers hate seeing their star striker doing somersaults or backflips after scoring; the last thing they want to see is a broken bone or strained ligament. Sliding on their knees is as safe as it gets for a player.
There’s also the pitch to consider; a good quality soccer pitch is like a flat, smooth, and well-maintained snooker table. Well-drained and watered, it’s the perfect place to slide.
If there’s a lot of rain, it’s even better. Scoring a goal on a rainy day lifts the crowd from their damp seats, and a good run-up means you’re going to slide a lot further.
How To Slide On Your Knees After Scoring
A knee slide is one of the most natural movements in soccer, but there’s a knack for getting it right.
Getting it wrong will only mean you’re going to land flat on your face, but after scoring the all-important goal for your team, the last thing you want to do is chew turf.
Here’s how to slide like a pro:
Step 1: Pitch Conditions
If the pitch is bone-dry, then sliding isn’t going to be as easy; mild conditions are fine, and wet weather is even better. You can slide on a warm, sunny pitch, but the grass has to be in good condition. If there are parts of the pitch where the earth is showing, avoid sliding there.
Artificial grass looks great, lasts for years, and doesn’t need cutting, but it’s usually too dry to slide on easily, so ideally, you’ll want to stick to sliding on natural grass.
Step 2: The Run Up
The faster you’re going when you make a knee slide, the further you’ll slide along the pitch. After scoring, sprint as quickly as possible towards a corner flag, and once you’ve hit top speed, make sure you’ve got enough runway left to make your landing.
Step 3: Bend The Knee
You’ll find it easier to start sliding with your stronger leg, which is often the one you’re more comfortable with. In the same way a person can be left-handed or right-handed, most people are predisposed to use one leg over another. At full speed, start bending your knee until it’s ready to hit the turf.
Step 4: Bring The Other Knee Down
As soon as your stronger leg is in position, immediately drop your other knee too. You’re aiming to hit the grass with both knees almost simultaneously. It takes a little practice, but it’s an easy celebration to learn.
You’ll find that sliding on one knee means you’ll either get tangled up in your trailing leg or your knee pushes into the ground like a spear; either way, you’re heading for a face in the dirt.
Step 5: Point Your Toes Away From You
Once you’ve hit the ground, point your toes backward, this stops your feet from acting like anchors and keeps your leg perfectly straight. From the tip of your toes right up to your kneecap, you should now be kneeling as if you’re sitting on a sled.
Step 6: Slide Like A Pro
As long as you’ve maintained your speed and both knees hit the ground at roughly the same time, you’ll now be sliding along the grass. It’s always a fun idea to practice this maneuver before games; you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good celebration knee slide.
Alternatives To Sliding On Your Knees
Cartwheels were once a favorite, and backflips have been attempted, although you’ll rarely see a manager look impressed with either. There’s hell to pay for a player who scores a vital goal and then gets themselves injured during the celebrations.
Until it was banned, players would take off their jerseys, running around the pitch waving their club colors wildly, often throwing the jersey into the crowd.
Doing that in the modern game will only end in tears; it’s a straight yellow card for the player that removes their jersey, and if they’ve already received a yellow, it’s an early bath as a red card is shown.
Another firm favorite is the baby celebration, though this is only applied when a team member has either recently had a child or is imminently expecting a birth in their family. The players line up, rocking their arms as if cradling a baby, often making sure they’re standing in front of the new or prospective parent.
Some teams go all out when celebrating a goal and come up with a unique and memorable celebration. The fans love to see these kinds of choreographed celebrations, though the referees, and often the managers, are less impressed.
Famous Knee Slide Celebrations
Every other player has at least made the knee slide celebration once, and when it comes to the most famous ones; it was hard to only pick three.
Here are the most famous knee slide celebrations:
Thierry Henry – Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur 2002 London Derby
One of the finest strikers the Premier League has ever seen, Thierry Henry of Arsenal and France scored perhaps one of his most incredible goals during the 2002 season. What made it all the sweeter was he scored it against Arsenal’s biggest rivals.
After collecting the ball in his own half, Henry turned on the afterburners and flew past the entire Spurs team, skipping past the defense and guiding the ball home.
His iconic knee slide in front of the Tottenham fans is so famous Arsenal raised a statue of Henry in his sliding pose outside their Emirates stadium.
Jose Mourinho – Real Madrid 2012 – Real Madrid vs Manchester City
It doesn’t have to be a player who gets so worked up over a goal that they celebrate with a knee slide; Managers lose a winning goal as much as the fans and players do.
In 2012, Real Madrid was up against Manchester City in the Champions League. With the game on a knife edge at 2-2, Real Madrid would take their chance and score the winning goal.
Mourinho exploded, pulling off one of the most iconic knee slides you’ll ever see. With a suit and tie on, the Madrid manager skipped onto the pitch, arms raised, fists pumping.
It’s one of the best sights in soccer; Jose Mourinho driving the fans mad with glee or rage, and the Portuguese legend loves it.
Emmanuel Adebayor – Manchester City vs Arsenal – 2009
One of the most contentious knee slides in Premier League history happened in September 2009 in a wild game involving Manchester City and Arsenal.
The scene had been set with City’s Emmanuel Adebayor, formerly of Arsenal, goading fans and former teammates throughout the game.
Adebayor would help Manchester City to a 4-2 victory, and after scoring in front of the City fans, Adebayor ran the entire length of the pitch to knee slide in front of the traveling Gunners.
The stadium erupted, with fans throwing anything and everything they could lay their hands on at their former striker.
Afterward, Adebayor would apologize, but regardless of the issues caused by his now infamous slide, it’s remained one of the most well-known celebrations in Premier League history.