x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Flip that went flop for Al Ahli’s Majed Naser

Majed Naser’s injury is a big loss to Al Ahli, but hopefully the goalkeeper will come back wiser and tone down his celebrations.

Majed Naser, the UAE goalkeeper, is too important a player to make mistakes that lead to injury, writes our columnist. Satish Kumar / The National
Majed Naser, the UAE goalkeeper, is too important a player to make mistakes that lead to injury, writes our columnist. Satish Kumar / The National

Majed Naser has done it again. No, he has not slapped, smacked, socked or thrown a rock at anyone. The Al Ahli goalkeeper has been on his best behaviour in recent times, but he has still managed to put himself out of the game for another extended period.

Banned for six months last year for his on-field misdemeanours and off-loaded by his employers Al Wasl last September, Naser had put all those controversies behind to make an impressive return in January with his new club. The 29-year-old Emirati also had forced his way back into Mahdi Ali’s national team, but now he is out for six months, again, or even more, after injuring his Achilles in the opening league game of the season.

The culprit? His unbridled enthusiasm. Having waited 93 minutes for Ahli’s first goal, in the match against Dubai, Naser let himself, go after Ahmed Khalil’s match-winner, celebrating as he usually does – with a few backflips.

This time, it was not a happy landing.

Naser will be leaving for the Portuguese city of Porto in the coming days for surgery and while he recuperates, the showman might want to reflect on this latest episode in his soap-operatic career. He has never been destiny’s favourite child and his celebrations were tempting fate.

Such acrobatic celebrations, while great to watch, are inherently dangerous and often find a place in “fails” compilations. The warning come not in fine print, but bold. Two Turkish doctors, Bulent Zerena and Haluk H Oztekin, had conducted a research on the subject in the late 1990s with the aim of “preventing score-celebration injuries”.

“Exaggerated celebrations after making a goal, such as sliding, piling up, and tackling a teammate when racing away, can result in serious injury,” they wrote in their conclusions. “In addition to general measures for preventing soccer injuries, coaches and team physicians should teach self-control and behaviour modification to minimise the risk of such injuries.

“More restrictive rules, which penalise such behaviour, may assist in the prevention of score-celebration injuries.”

We do not know if Cosmin Olaroiu, or Quique Sanchez Flores before him, ever advised Naser against his high-risk celebrations, but if Harry Redknapp were in the Ahli dugout, the goalkeeper might have earned a severe rebuke on the first attempt.

Redknapp knows the danger of such celebrations.

He was the Portsmouth manager in 2006 when his striker Lomana LuaLua injured his ankle, while celebrating a goal against Arsenal, with a trademark somersault.

In 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson had ordered Nani to stop his back-flipping celebrations after the Portuguese winger landed painfully following a flip as he celebrated a goal on his Manchester United debut in a friendly against Shenzhen FC.

Ferguson, of course, had good reasons for it. During his 26 years at Man United, he had watched many of the Premier League’s top stars suffering injuries as they went overboard with their celebrations.

In 1997, Celestine Babayaro broke his leg as he celebrated a goal with a somersault during a pre-season game and his Chelsea debut was delayed for a few months. That same year, Patrick Vieira was put out of action for five weeks after injuring himself in an extravagant slide on his knees as he celebrated a goal against Ferguson’s team.

There are plenty of other such tales. In 2008, the Argentine striker Fabian Espindola celebrated a goal that wasn’t with a back flip and sprained his ankle.

“I’m embarrassed,” Espindola said later. “I’m never going to do that again. I’ve done it a million times. If I would have known, I never would have done it.”

Hopefully, Naser comes back with a similar resolve. He is too valuable a player to spend six months on the sidelines.