It is one of the most fundamental joys of football, or even sport more broadly. And yet in the last 24 hours it has become the latest stick with which the government is beating Premier League players in the Covid-19 era.
Celebrating goals has been thrown into the limelight after MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Parliamentary Department of Culture Media and Sport Committee, accused Premier League footballers of being ‘brainless’ and ‘negligent’ for hugging and huddling together in big group celebrations.
DCMS committee member and Tottenham Hotspur fan Clive Efford even went as far as to call players ‘absolutely disgusting’ for ‘flouting the rules’ on social distancing.
Everton’s players enjoyed an exuberant celebration after scoring in their win away to Wolves
Sheffield United players embraced after scoring in their first League win of the season
Managers have been quick to defend their charges, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Chris Wilder and Ralph Hasenhuttl among those to have spoken publicly on the issue.
So is it possible to stop yourself from running over to join the pile after one of your team-mates puts the ball in the back of the net?
Sportsmail columnists and former Premier League players Chris Sutton, Martin Keown and Micah Richards answer the question.
CHRIS SUTTON: YES, IT’S SUCH A MINOR SACRIFICE TO MAKE
Look, say there’s a crowded penalty area, someone scores a header and his team-mates rush him in the excitement. That I can understand. But to run 20, 30, 40 yards so you can give your pal a cuddle? That should be easy to resist.
There’s no excuse if you’re being told over and over to cut it out — and Premier League players are being told that.
To not celebrate in that manner is such a minor sacrifice to make. You might say, ‘Who cares?’ Well, the politicians do, and why would you want to give them any reason to shut football down?
Fulham players came together and hugged after their late equaliser at Tottenham Hotspur
Chris Sutton (middle, pictured in 1998) said not celebrating together is a small sacrifice
You might also say, ‘But players are practically hugging at corners’. Well, that’s a necessary part of the game, whereas celebrating like a bunch of penguins trying to stay warm isn’t.
Top-level football is fortunate to have been given special permission to play on, so follow the protocols in place! That goes for hugging managers, too.
When I’m out and about now, I steer clear of people. It’s become second nature not to invade space. It isn’t difficult. Is it ideal? No, but then what is ideal nowadays?
MARTIN KEOWN: YES, RESTRAINED KANE SHOWED THE WAY
When you score a goal, you’re almost removed from your senses. You can go into celebration mode automatically, especially if you aren’t used to putting the ball in the back of the net.
But in my career, if a colleague scored, that was a different story. Look back at some of Arsenal’s iconic goals and you won’t see me having run the length of the pitch to celebrate with my team-mates.
My first thought was about what we had to do next to defend the lead. I’d be returning to my position, preparing for the restart. With pressure being put on players now, they have to show they can be professional and resist the urge to celebrate together.
Harry Kane (right) scored, celebrated on his own, got a fist bump or two, and moved on
Martin Keown (right) accepts players can be removed from their senses when a goal goes in
Tottenham showed it can be done against Fulham. They scored a very good team goal, finished by Harry Kane, but they did not celebrate as a team with a group hug. Kane did it right.
He scored, celebrated on his own, got a fist bump or two, and moved on. That’s the way to do it.
Players have to be mindful of their responsibilities and show they can follow the rules.
MICAH RICHARDS: NO, I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO KEEP A LID ON THINGS
When you score a goal, the emotion that runs through you is something that you cannot fathom.
It didn’t happen that often for me during my career, so when I did score, I tended to enjoy the moment for everything it was worth.
If I was playing now, I’m not sure I would be able to keep a lid on things — particularly if it was a last-minute winner.
In an important game, when your blood is pumping and something major is at stake, it is asking a lot of players for them to exercise restraint.
Eight Manchester City players hugged after Phil Foden scored against Brighton on Wednesday
Micah Richards (middle) says that he wouldn’t be able to forget not to embrace team-mates
I do understand, though, that some people will see footballers celebrating together as not being a good look and will wonder why they have to gather in a group.
To that point, I would argue the best example I have seen of restraint being shown came from Harry Kane against Fulham. Kane showed class, walking away and giving cursory acknowledgements. In most cases, footballers will be able to do this.
The players are being tested, they wouldn’t be playing if they were showing signs of symptoms and they are living in a bubble.
In the moments of high tension, however, when a game-changing goal goes in, don’t we want to see the outpouring of joy that goes with it?
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk