Goal celebrations are a fairly new affair having only started in the past few decades. Previously players celebrated with a hearty handshake or pat on the back but in recent years this has changed into elaborate expressions of joy and exuberance. Whilst a majority of these new celebrations are risk free, a few players have started to show more dramatic and acrobatic celebrations like somersaults and back flips. Ireland’s Robbie Keane and Portugal’s Nani are two examples of players who use their training from junior years in athletics to dazzling effects. However in a tragic case in India, one such celebration went tragically wrong with the worst outcome.
Bethlehem Vengthland midfielder Peter Biaksangzuala died after landing awkwardly while performing a somersault shortly after scoring in a Indian league match against Chanmari West. In the fall he severely damaged his spinal chord and sadly died in hospital five days later. At 23 years old, his death shocked Indian football and has has a detrimental effect on his teammates who are struggling to cope with the passing of their close friend. It was not the first time that Biaksangzuala had performed this acrobatic manoeuvre so his teammates were used to seeing it. However this time as he landed heavily and failed to get back up quickly, they realized something was horribly wrong and called on the medical team to come help him. Despite efforts on the pitch and subsequent treatment at a nearby hospital, nothing could be done with the player slipping away later that week. His club has been quick to retire his number 21 shirt in tribute to their fallen player.
His death has prompted questions and debate on whether FIFA could get involved to prevent further tragedies by introducing limitations on what players can do during celebrations. Currently players can be booked for removing their jerseys, covering their faces with a mask or encroaching onto the crowd however as yet no further guidelines have been structured. FIFA has reiterated that any changes to the rules can be submitted by a country’s FA but needs the approval of the International Football Association Board (IFAB). Enforcing a new policy would fall to the referees but in the case of Biasksangzuala the referee was powerless to prevent such an incident from happening. It may be down to the clubs as employers to enforce a policy in order to protect their assets but as yet it hasn’t become an issue that clubs take note of. Perhaps now though, the tragic and shocking death of such a young and talented player will make them reconsider this and act quickly in order to prevent another player from dying on the pitch from simply celebrating a goal.