Harry Kane’s last-minute winner at Villa Park yesterday afternoon provided us with a reminder of why we love the game. There are few better spectacles than the a last-minute winner and a ten-man, ‘everyone into the corner’ goal-celebration.
When football lost the bond that used to exist between fans and players, the way goals were celebrated started to change. Over time, as the sport evolved into a business, the act of scoring became less joyful. Goalscorers were less frequently overcome by a Marco Tardelli-style mania and more prone to contrived poses and choreographed routines.
That’s not always true and we still see moments of self-deprecation but, generally, finding the net has become more about basking in the light of the television cameras than it has actually celebrating.
That Harry Kane moment was different - not least because it could have happened anywhere. On a school playing-field, on Hackney Marshes, or on a Premier League pitch in front of a global audience; it doesn’t matter - that was a universal celebration that, not only have we all seen at every level of the game, but most of us have probably taken part in at one point or another.
Football is at its best when you can reach out and touch it. In the present day, the top level of the sport is a gated community of millionaires, Oligarchs and impossibly beautiful women, and the fans are typically left outside, peering sadly through the railings. There really isn’t much to relate to anymore, and whereas once the team and the supporters were one in the same, now they are the stars and we are just the audience. Supporters are expected to pay, to sit down, to clap and then to leave quietly; the disconnect between the stands and the pitch has never been greater.
That’s what makes moments like yesterday so special. Their rarity, obviously, but also what they represent: a brief return to a time when the game was just about winning and football was joyful. The big bundle of Tottenham players in that corner of Villa Park last night may have had a staggering net-worth, but from the fans’ perspective they may as well have been watching themselves - that’s how they would have responded to a last-gasp victory, that’s how they would have celebrated.
Look at the faces of all the players, look at what it obviously meant to the scorer himself, and take note of just how uninhibited a reaction that really was. Wonderful. Harry Kane, wearing an expression of ‘dream come true’ delight didn’t bother with dance moves and didn’t lift his shirt to expose some tedious slogan, he just ran to the fans, a picture of sincere happiness and was mobbed by his mates.
It was amateurism at its very best.
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