World Cup celebrations explained: From Mbappe’s NBA effort to Hakimi’s ‘waddle’


The World Cup has brought us some interesting goal celebrations — from Achraf Hakimi’s waddle against Spain to Kylian Mbappe’s effort after his double against Poland. But what is the origin of them and what do they all mean?

Nick Miller and Jeff Rueter explain…

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco v Spain)

Oh, how convenient this particular sleuthing assignment is. If you had seen the entirety of the Welsh side skipping gleefully around the net to celebrate a Gareth Bale goal, you would never assume it was in homage to Tottenham midfielder Oliver Skipp. And yet, the trend to waddle like a penguin, as was most memorably executed by Achraf Hakimi after his decisive penalty against Spain in the last 16, was popularised by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.

Hakimi has also used it during his time at Paris Saint-Germain, alongside Sergio Ramos, who was not selected in the Spain squad, with many suggesting it was a tribute to the man he recently called the best defender in the world.

We’re all eagerly awaiting the moment when a goalscorer makes the world aware of their admiration for Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz.

Kylian Mbappe (France v Poland)

Game recognise game, as the kids are saying. If the 2018 World Cup served as the French forward’s emphatic breakout on the global stage, then his 2022 tournament should drive home further that he’ll be at the forefront of the game for the coming years — as if there was any doubt left about that. He capped his brace against Poland with confirmation that he can count to two before a charismatic look as if to say “yeah, I did that”.

It’s a homage to one of his favourite athletes, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry. A noted NBA wonk who attended the basketball league’s rookie draft over the summer, Mbappe decided not to wait for a possible hat-trick to mimic the three-point shooting ace.

Jack Grealish (England vs Iran)

The grubby little secret that many either don’t know or choose not to believe, is that footballers are generally pretty nice people. Sure, there are a few wrong ’uns, but for the most part, they’re decent sorts. It perhaps wasn’t a surprise, therefore, when Jack Grealish kept his promise to a young fan called Finlay he’d met a few weeks before the World Cup: Finlay has cerebral palsy, as does Grealish’s younger sister Holly, so when the two met at Manchester City’s training ground, Finlay made Grealish promise to do a sort of wavy-armed, body pop celebration if he scored in Qatar.

Even then, the odds were against Grealish actually remembering to do it. But when he found the net in England’s rout of Iran, he remembered and out went those arms. See? Generally, pretty nice people.

Read more: Why has World Cup final pitch been relaid? 

Mitchell Duke (Australia v Tunisia)

The benefit of being a football fan, rather than a footballer, is that when you’re in the stands you can generally share the great moments, the ones of pure ecstasy, the ones we’re all in this for, with your nearest and dearest. The ones who are actually out there making those moments have to do their immediate celebrating away from the ones whose sacrifices have probably made it all possible.

Mitchell Duke knew this, so he asked his son, Jaxson, how he should celebrate if he scored. Jaxson went for his own first initial, formed with two fingers and a thumb, so when Duke scored against Tunisia, they both made that sign. If there was a way to make scoring the winner in your country’s first World Cup win since 2010 even more special, then this will do it.

Osman Bukari (Ghana v Portugal)

If you’re 23, relatively inexperienced at international level and you score for your country at your first World Cup, you probably aren’t thinking with the utmost clarity. You almost certainly aren’t thinking “Will people somehow consider how I celebrate probably the greatest moment of my career so far to be disrespectful?”

It’s easy to believe that when Osman Bukari celebrated his goal against Portugal in what would ultimately be a 3-2 defeat, by doing the ‘siuuuuuu’ leap popularised by Cristiano Ronaldo, he simply forgot the world’s most famous substitute was involved in the game. But he was, so he got a taste of what anyone who has tweeted something not 100 per cent complimentary about Ronaldo gets, and it was interpreted as a mocking gesture, a flex, and yes — ‘disrespectful’. It’s a strange world out there.

Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham (England v Wales)

It looks pretty exhausting being a fan of a really big team. Everything is viewed through the prism of that team, anything praising another team must be interpreted as a snub, seemingly nothing can be taken on face value. A good example came when Jude Bellingham laid on Jordan Henderson’s goal against Wales and the pair celebrated by quite literally going head-to-head with each other: most of the country enjoyed a well-worked strike, but some corners of the internet interpreted it as a recruitment exercise, the experienced Liverpool captain making the first moves in trying to persuade his young colleague that Anfield is the place for him.

But actually, it sounds like it was just one of those moments of joy where not much thought goes into it, and it’s all reaction. “To be honest, he got so close and I was thinking, right, if this is what we are going to do we have to commit, don’t we?” Bellingham said on the FA’s Instagram account. “Something that lives forever, them kind of celebrations and hopefully, people will be talking about it for a long time.”

Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon v Serbia)

Let’s get two things clear off the bat. First, nearly every TikTok dance looks downright ridiculous when seen in the wild; same with Fortnite dances, if we’re being honest. Second, goal celebrations should almost never get a runout on a wedding reception dancefloor.

If there’s one exception to that rule, it isn’t a knee slide into the groom’s older brother — it’s Antoine Griezmann’s renowned homage to Drake’s 2016 viral hit Hotline Bling. It doesn’t take much to pull it off, whether you’re an earnest lad from Minnesota or Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar. Good one to keep in rotation for a chuckle if you’re ever thrown into a dance circle.

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal v Switzerland)

It was going to take something pretty special for the Cristiano Ronaldo wonks among Portugal’s fanbase to get behind the decision to leave their iconic man on the bench in the last 16. Enter Goncalo Ramos, who only began his academy career in the same 2009 calendar year that saw Ronaldo trade Old Trafford for the Bernabeu. The youthful approach was rewarded with a hat-trick and the man known as “O Pistoleiro” capped his tallies with a smoking gun celebration which would make fellow aged wonder Clint Eastwood snarl with approval. 

Goncalo Ramos goes for the gun fingers (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

It’s hard to tell if he was called “The Gunman” before the celebration. Some publications reported Ramos as being known as The Wizard, and I’ve never seen a wizard pull a revolver from beneath his cloak. Nevertheless, it appears Portugal are in good hands.

Ismaila Sarr (Senegal v Ecuador)

FIFA, as we know, does not like football getting mixed up with politics. Unless it’s Gianni Infantino declaring that football can help bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, as he did just before the World Cup.

It’s thus mildly surprising Ismaila Sarr did not get a slap on the wrist for his celebration following his goal against Ecuador, when he covered his eyes with one hand and pointed a finger of the other towards his head.

This was apparently in protest against the world’s media offering scant coverage of atrocities taking place across Africa, something that in a sensible world could only be commendable — a footballer using his platform to speak the unspoken. Just as long as it doesn’t involve politics.

Sarr celebrates with Iliman Ndiaye (Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Memphis Depay (Netherlands v U.S.)

While Dutch fans are ruing their side’s inability to complete an incredible comeback against Argentina, they can commend Memphis Depay for his consistency — if not in scoring goals, then in how he celebrates them. When he arrived at Lyon in 2017, he was in need of a career rehabilitation. He had been chewed up and spat out at Manchester United, struggling to live up to the immeasurable pressure put upon him. While many athletes have their own variations on the “tune out the haters” theme, Depay didn’t try to hide it with false justifications.

“My celebration? Blind and deaf to the world,” Depay told Catalan broadcaster TV3 in 2021. “It’s basically focused tunnel vision. I don’t feel anything, I don’t see anything and I focus. I think in life sometimes it’s important to have tunnel vision and be really focused so that you can give the best version of yourself without distractions.”

Enner Valencia (Ecuador v Netherlands)

When Enner Valencia levelled Ecuador’s match against the Netherlands for his third goal of the tournament, he prioritised a studious approach to celebrating over something more frenetic. Along the way to the corner flag, he pantomimed writing on an unknown item in his left hand. The possibilities are endless: is he asking for a new contract or transfer move, as some speculated? Is he triple-checking Byron Castillo’s eligibility to represent La Tricolor? Perhaps he’s excited for Santa to review the list he’s made, checked twice, and wants to ensure his place on the jolly man’s nice list.

Valencia celebrates against the Netherlands with his ‘notes’ gesture (Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images)

In reality, it’s almost certainly another along the lines of Depay’s motivation: those pesky critics. Making someone’s “list” is not a fun prospect for most of us, as the implication is that we’ve wronged someone or something.

In a wide-open Group A, Ecuador may have felt overlooked by those picking the Netherlands and Senegal over the CONMEBOL qualifier. Granted, Valencia’s side finished third behind those other two nations. However, at least he remembered to journal in the moment lest he forget his third goal of this World Cup. It’s something we could all improve at: keeping timely notes.

(Lead pictures: Getty Images)


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