Imagine this: you’re a striker playing for one of the top European clubs and your team is trailing by a goal against your archrival, whose supporters have been chanting hostile songs at you throughout the game. With two minutes to go, your team has a rare chance to equalize. Your teammate has won a corner. The ball is swung deep into the six-yard box as you are left unmarked. You manage to connect with a fierce header that the goaltender fails to save.
In retaliation, you run toward the opposing fans and have a go at them by kissing your club’s badge.
You suddenly become a hated figure for them as much as you are a cult hero for your own fans. By kissing the badge, you have kissed each one of your team’s fans who treat the club as life and death. It’s a statement of affection.
Fast-forward 12 months: you no longer feel the club is the right place for you because the board of directors has rejected your request for a better contract. You demand to leave but you don’t want to tell your fans money is the reason. So you tell them that you’re looking for a new challenge. You think you can hide it from the fans, but soon after they find out that you’re after a bigger paycheck, they lambaste you. You’re perceived as a cash-seeking traitor. The affectionate kiss a year ago was nothing but a Judas kiss.
Kissing the badge used to be a sacred thing for footballers. Only those with total commitment to the club dared to perform such a gesture. It’s the football equivalent of a Christian baptism in which the player surrenders himself to the Holy Trinity – directors, managers and fans. By kissing the badge – which is defended with blood and tears by many — not only do you show your devotion to the club but you also demonstrate an eternal bond with the fans.
But since so many players have kissed the badge and later asked for transfers, the act of badge-kissing has turned into one of football’s worst cliches. You know when a player kisses the crest on his chest it doesn’t mean “I love this club forever,” but rather, “I love this club for now; let’s see what happens next.”
This week we saw Samir Nasri complete his transfer to Manchester City after weeks of uncertainty. Nasri was said to want a move from Arsenal because he craved success. The French international said that the Emirates crowd had been a letdown compared to the Old Highbury, but it didn’t prevent him from kissing the Gunners’ badge after he scored against Tottenham Hotspur less than a year ago. Nasri’s compatriot, Thierry Henry, also moistened the Arsenal badge with his lips in 2007 after beating Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield. Henry said he would stay at Arsenal forever and never play in Spain. We all know what happened five months later.
Manchester United talisman Wayne Rooney surprised many when he provocatively kissed United’s badge in a game against his former club, Everton, in 2008 as a response to abusive chants. Rooney said he had committed himself to United then later, astonishingly, handed in a transfer request for what he believed was “a lack of ambition” by the club. Rooney’s lost love for United was restored when the club agreed to give him what he wanted: a bigger contract. He has kissed the badge since then, but still has again requested to leave the club.
Kissing Liverpool’s famous badge had been one of Steven Gerrard’s regular goal celebrations, but in 2005 he filed a transfer request, not once but twice after Chelsea reportedly wanted to bring the tenacious midfielder to London. The atrocious saga ended happily for the Kopites after Gerrard changed his mind and renewed his contract.
Chelsea’s former striker Didier Drogba even mentioned in his book that kissing the club’s badge hardly means anything to him. The Ivoirian said: “Where I kissed the Chelsea badge after I scored, that gesture was for the fans. I don’t love the jersey.”
It seems that there’s a massive disparity between the players and the clubs on how they perceive badge-kissing. It’s obviously sacred for the fans but nothing more than a way to raise profiles for players. It’s yet to be figured if badge-kissing could get you cursed, but Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko should have known better about reckless badge-kissing. Following his move to England in 2006, he enraged his old Milan fans after he kissed Chelsea’s badge in his debut with the Blues. It was a hideous act to do in any sense and it’s been all downhill for his career since then.
Read in full at Jakarta Globe.