There is no better time to watch soccer than during a derby. The atmosphere is so charged with the fans screaming at the top of their voices.
Scoring a goal during a derby feels so special that soccer players often don’t know how to celebrate. In a 2002 North London derby between rival neighbors Arsenal and Tottenham, Thiery Henry picked the ball from his own half and paced all the way to the opponent’s half, completed quick defensive maneuvers, and slotted home the ball.
While the crowd roared ecstatically, Henry performed the iconic knee slide in front of Spur fans. It was a passionate moment that there is a statue outside the Emirate Stadium that immortalized the celebration—however, he was not the first on record to perform the knee slides.
The first recorded instance of knee slide was when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United came off the bench to score a scintillating winner against Bayern Munich during the Champions League final in 1999.
Apparently, there have been other goal celebrations by soccer players prior to this time. However, knee sliding was an extremely rare sight.
Solskjaer was one of the soccer players that made the knee slide celebration popular. Today, knee slide has become a very popular goal celebration that a lot of soccer players try out. In fact, it has become one of the most popular goal celebrations in soccer.
Many soccer players and enthusiasts definitely want to try this out but stop when they think about the idea of sustaining an injury by performing such an act. If you happen to be in this category, you are not alone.
However, we are going to explain the entire process of the knee slide and tell you how safe or dangerous it can be. We will also walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to pull off this iconic goal celebration like a pro.
- Why and when do soccer players slide on their knees?
- How do soccer players slide on their knees?
- Does knee slide celebration hurt?
Why and when do soccer players slide on their knees?
The scoring rate in soccer is extremely low when you compare it to other games like basketball and American football where the scores easily run into double and triple digits. Therefore, every goal in soccer is special—especially when it comes to important tournaments or critical times of the game.
The only time we have seen soccer players drop to their knees and slide is when their body is pumping from adrenaline after scoring a goal. Of course, it makes no sense to have a soccer player sliding on his or her knee while the game is on.
While sliding on the knee is not the most dramatic goal celebration we have seen in the world of soccer, it is really fascinating. Perhaps, this explains why soccer players usually perform this celebration when they score a huge or crucial goal for their team.
Immediately after scoring a goal, the player often runs to the corner flag and drops down to their knees, and slides all the way through the corner lines. Some even slide and grab the corner flag to complete their celebration.
Over the years, soccer players have introduced myriads of variations of this iconic goal celebration. While some end it by grabbing the corner flag, others will either end by quickly getting back on their feet and throwing a fist in the air or lying flat on their back and mobbed by his or her teammates.
Regardless of how soccer players choose to end their knee slide goal celebration, it is always glorious to watch.
Knee slide is mostly done by soccer players on wet natural turf with short carpet grass. The combination of these wetness and short turf minimizes friction which makes the glide smooth and safe.
How do soccer players slide on their knees?
To pull off the knee slide goal celebration, you have to follow a particular sequence. However, don’t let that scare you because it is really an easy move to pull off—easier than it looks.
That explains why more soccer players are doing it today. If you want to successfully execute a knee slide, do the following.
1. Build forward momentum
The more forward momentum you build, the farther you will potentially slide if all the other factors that we mentioned earlier are in place. The buildup forward momentum is transferred to the legs and knees.
As the player slides, the friction between the turf and their legs gradually slows them down till they come to a standstill. To prolong the motion, a short burst of about 15 to 20 meters is required prior to sliding.
2. Start your landing with one knee
When dropping into a slide, it is always important to start with one knee—but this does not mean that the first knee must touch the turf first. It just has to bend as if you want to touch it on the turf to bring your body lower to the ground.
It is believed that bending one knee brings the upper body closer to the ground which helps to build balance before you actually drop the turf. Without this inclination, the player may tumble the moment their knee touches the turf.
The choice of bending the left or right leg first will depend on whether you are a left or right-handed player. Right-handed players will naturally bend their right leg first while left-handed players will likely go down with their left leg first.
Getting the technique right is important to avoid injuring yourself in the process. While knee slide is generally safe, it can still be harmful when not properly executed.
3. Lean your body backward
Leaning the body backward is not only good for maintaining balance, but it is also a crucial step for reducing air resistance which allows the player to slide further.
Air resistance will slow down the player leading to a shorter surface distance. It can also cause the player to come to an abrupt stop which can cause him or her to tumble. Ideally, the longer the distance covered by the knee slide, the higher the thrill for the fans.
4. Graze the turf with the second knee
Recall that in the second step you were told to bring one knee close to the ground but not to touch it. Well, the second knee will be the first to touch the turf.
While making your touchdown, the footbridge should be flat on the ground which leads to the extension of the ankle joint making it easier for the lower leg and the knee to follow. Once the second leg touches the ground, it becomes easier for the first bent leg to follow.
Once you have completed a successful landing, the combination of your initial speed, the slipperiness of the turf, your body inclination, and friction will determine how far you will travel before coming to a halt.
5. Boost your distance
We already mentioned that the way you incline your body is part of the factors that determine how far a soccer player will travel during a knee slide. To maintain your speed and prolong your distance, you need to tilt your body further backward.
The further backward you lean, the lower the drag and resistance which allows you to cover a little more distance before coming to a halt. The idea behind this also explains why racing cars are built low and inclined at an angle.
Does knee slide celebration hurt?
Knee slide celebration is not supposed to hurt when done properly but it can also be potentially dangerous when attempted in the wrong condition. It will really hurt if the turf is dry or covered with tiny pebbles.
The injury that can occur from a knee slide can range from minor injuries like tiny cuts from the grass or can be major ligament tears.
Ironically, the very first player that invented the celebration also tore his medial ligaments in the process. Many people say the injury Solskjaer sustained from that celebration eventually led to his retirement from professional soccer in 2007.
Inasmuch as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits that he sustained the ligament tear from the celebration, he dismissed the claim that it led to his retirement. To further avoid hurting yourself while trying to execute a knee slide, avoid the following;
1. Sliding on a dry or uneven surface
While professional soccer players have the luxury of furnished pitches that are checked prior to the commencement of any game, those who play in local fields and some high school fields may not have the same privilege.
Therefore, before attempting a knee slide, make sure that the turf is wet. Also, you need to examine the type of turf to know if it is natural or synthetic. Some synthetic turfs may be too hard and leave small bruises on any exposed part of your legs afterward.
Lastly, make sure the field is even and that there are no obstacles like tiny pebbles on the field. This is usually a common feature when you play soccer on open or public fields.
2. Never jump before sliding
Sometimes, watching soccer players perform the knee slide it may look like they simply jumped into a sliding position—but that is not true. Jumping and landing on your knee can lead to severe dislocation or cause problems to your knee cap.
The experience and pain can be traumatizing and end your time on the pitch if peradventure you land on a pebble. The lower you are to the ground prior to your slide, the safer you will execute the move.
3. Never slide with exposed skin
The leaf blade of grasses (in natural turf) can still cut through your skin if you slide on them with exposed legs. To prevent these tiny painful cuts, make sure you pull up your socks to cover your knees before attempting a knee slide.
Obviously, a knee slide is fun and an ecstatic way of celebrating a goal. While this move is generally safe and has been modified by soccer players over the years, it still has the potential to cause harm if not properly executed or when executed on the wrong surface.
If you ever injure yourself while trying to celebrate a goal, the ecstasy will evaporate within seconds after you sustain the injury—and that is not what you want. Therefore, it is always important to make sure that the condition is favorable before trying to execute a knee slide.
Whenever the condition is not favorable, for example, you notice that the turf is dry, choose another celebration style. There will be more goals to come and you will definitely get the chance to show off your knee slide.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!