by Adam Bushby
Just take a minute now to look at the above picture. Study it. I mean, really soak it in. Try and remember how you felt when you saw him striking that frankly ludicrous pose on June 26 1996. I remember that, even as a weedy little 12-year-old, I desperately wanted to knock some manners into him. Seven shades of manners. That was my immediate, knee-jerk reaction.
But after watching endless replays after the semi final comprising primarily of Paul Gascoigne skidding to within six inches of a winner, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of admiration for Andreas Möller. There. I’ve said it. I mean, LOOK AT HIM. He’s like the perfect Bond villain. Ernst Stavro Blowhard. A pompous, arrogant, evil genius who has covered every sun lounger between here and the Costa Brava with a beach towel, while, I presume, listening to “Looking For Freedom” by David Hasselhoff and practising his Mick Jagger pout. Of course, I never said at the time that I admired Möller. Such an admission would doubtless have ended with me becoming a pariah and probably getting a hiding from someone’s older brother for my troubles. But I seem to remember celebrating in that manner whenever I scored the winner in say a 14-13 thriller on a lunchtime. The reaction was always expletive ridden which was good enough for me.
Now cast your minds back to that heady summer of 1996: football had come home and Britannia was cool. After swatting aside the Dutch with such panache that England couldn’t fail but sweep all before them, an unconvincing 0-0 against the Spanish in the quarters did little to dim the misty-eyed wave of sanguinity spreading across the country. Thirty years of hurt was going to be extinguished overnight — the great oracles Skinner and Baddiel had said so. And much to the delight of the schoolyard, Germany even had a player called Kuntz. What could possibly go wrong?
The rest of course is history. Gareth Southgate managed to get work on a Pizza Hut advert for being shit and the fact that Germany’s sixth penalty would smash into the back of David Seaman’s net and prove decisive was beyond doubt. To pluck a statement straight from the Andy Townsend top drawer of understatements: “The English have a bit of history with the Germans.” It’s that underlying needle that makes Möller’s celebration so brilliant. And it’s so camp too. It’s like something from the five-aside penalty shoot-out episode of Are You Being Served. There’s something about a cheeky piece of goading that I cannot resist, be it Adebayor running the length of the pitch to give it to the Arsenal fans or Balotelli’s snide wink against United. Ultimately, it was the sheer chutzpah I respect most. The match was at Wembley, lest we forget. And as The Guardian’s Rob Smyth said: “If Paul Gascoigne had done it in Munich, everyone would have loved it.”
Come to think of it, imagine how wonderful life would be if all life’s high-profile bastards celebrated like Möller: George Osborne after delivering the Budget. David Cameron after gobshiteing out a particularly withering putdown to Ed Miliband at PMQs. Kay Burley after heckling 38 Degrees campaign group director David Babbs. If you’re going to be a bastard, at least do it with a touch of élan.
To summarise, Möller was actually a very good player to boot (obligatory YouTube highlights reel follows). And to justify why I was correct in labelling Möller anti-hero rather than villain, being, let’s say, far from United’s biggest fan, the German midfielder was in the Dortmund side that knocked Manchester United out in the semis of the Champions League the following season too. An arrogant twat Möller may be, but a smile never fails to cross my lips when I see that celebration.
Adam is the other half of the quite sublime (and award-nominated, oh yes indeed) Magic Spongers, men whose devotion to the cause of apples is matched only by their loathing of onions. Follow him/them on Twitter @magicspongers. Don’t mention Mark Bright.