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Why Can’t You Take Your Shirt off in Soccer?

Why Can’t You Take Your Shirt off in Soccer?

Initially, it was quite common for soccer players to take off their shirts when playing games. In addition, it was very common for players to celebrate goals scored by taking off their shirts.

Most soccer fans were keen to see their favorite players celebrate mostly a late goal, which would turn out to be the winning goal.

This was common for high-stakes games such as World Cup finals, UEFA Champions League, and other prestigious competitions.

Playing at such tournaments is deemed the pinnacle of soccer. That is why enormous celebrations back goals scored in such competitions.

Unfortunately for soccer players, as of recently, FIFA has not been too keen on players who take off their shirts during a match for whatever reason.

In 2004, FIFA decided to sanction soccer players that remove their shirts by showing them a yellow card.

Goal celebration was now denounced under soccer general rules and put into the law of the game.

What does taking your shirt off in soccer mean?

In current soccer, taking off your shirt could mean several things. Certain players use the act of taking off their shirts for private reasons.

Some reveal personal messages or even messages for advertising. And at a certain point in time, there have been instances of players showing religious messages.

Taking off shirts by soccer players is sometimes a result of emotion after scoring an important goal for their club. At the same time, some take off their shirts and reveal another shirt having a message.

The prohibition on taking off shirts sought to stop such messages.

Christiano Ronaldo has at one time admitted that he loved taking off his shirt to show off his well-toned body. Even David Beckham, during his career, loved taking off his shirt to flex his muscles.

Soccer players like to be praised for the performance they achieve. Exposing their upper body is seen as an expression of their masculinity waiting to be applauded by spectators.

The act of taking off shirts by soccer players has long been part of the soccer game. That is why there are various interesting situations in the pitch.

Why can’t you take your shirt off in soccer?

Taking off shirts in soccer violates FIFA law 12, which regulates the removal of shirts when celebrating goals scored.

The law states that players who remove their shirts when celebrating goals will be automatically given a yellow card. Furthermore, the rule against taking off shirts in soccer began on 1 July 2004.

This rule was implemented by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) at its 118th annual meeting held in London. The International Football Association Board is responsible for the laws of soccer.

IFAB added a new rule to the misconduct and foul section stating that soccer players who take off their shirts in a game will be penalized for unsupported behavior.

FIFA law 12 states that soccer players can celebrate when they score goals, but it doesn’t have to be excessive; celebrations choreographed are not permitted, and they must not cause excessive time-wasting.

The law also stated that if soccer players leave the field, they won’t be penalized, but they have to return as soon as possible.

According to FIFA, soccer players will be cautioned when they climb perimeter fences or approach the spectators in any way deemed a risk to security and safety. In addition, acting or gesturing in a provocative, inflammatory, and desired way would also lead to cautions.

Also, covering the face or head with face masks or similar items. Lastly, covering the head with the shirt or removing the shirt entirely.

Though there aren’t any clear-cut reasons why players can’t take off their shirts in soccer, below are some of the reasons which are famous for why soccer players can’t remove their shirts:

Soccer players should not celebrate excessively

The players are celebrating the goal

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) says that players should not remove their shirts after scoring goals as it is unnecessary. Also, the excessive display of joy should be avoided.

Though some fans agree that removing shirts after scoring is unnecessary, they cannot be blamed when crucial goals like Aguero’s sealed the 2011/12 Premier League trophy, or Iniesta’s goal that gave Spain their first World Cup in 2010.

Even Christiano Ronaldo took off his shirt when he broke the world record for scoring the most number of international goals. However, when he took off his shirt to celebrate his achievement, the referee was spotted close to him to award him a yellow card after the celebration.

Occasions like this will always be celebrated because of emotions.

FIFA considers taking off shirts by soccer players as an unsupportive behavior

According to FIFA, taking off shirts by soccer players who scored goals is not supported because it does not belong to soccer. The reason for such actions by FIFA has been stated above.

FIFA sees taking off shirts as disrespect for the game and disrespect to certain groups of people who love to watch soccer. However, some people might see such a reason as unfounded, maybe because players take off their shirts at the end of every game when they exchange their jerseys.

Jerseys that soccer players put on are usually sponsored. Therefore they ought to be put on all the time. As a fan of soccer, you would notice that every top soccer team out there has a corporation’s logo on their jerseys.

That means these corporations have paid money to the club to display their logo on the player’s jersey.

When soccer players score important goals, celebration photos are taken by photographers on the pitch and then later published in magazines, the internet, and other major soccer-related websites.

Sponsors of clubs are very happy when they see their logo spread across the internet.

However, when players decide to take off their shirts during goal celebrations, the advertisement is often taken away. The reason for the diversion is that the internet tends to prefer players’ shirtless photos to photos taken when their shirt is still on.

It has been speculated by soccer analysts and fans alike that one of the reasons for the restriction on taking shirts off after scoring a goal is due to sponsors. Though there is no proof of this claim, sponsors’ benefit from this rule can not be denied.

Normally, companies would want their logo to be displayed and gain exposure since they have paid some form of sponsorship. Some speculate that this is what led them to ‘influence’ FIFA to penalize soccer players who take off their shirts.

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Sending political messages through taking off shirts

Another reason why there is a ban on taking off shirts on soccer players is because some players who take off their shirts sometimes reveal another shirt with a message.

A famous example of this was the incident of Robbie Fowler taking off his shirt in 1997. After he took off his shirt, another shirt was revealed, showing support for Docker, a Liverpool striker.

Other examples include Mario Balotelli’s act where he shows a shirt with the inscription ‘why always me.’ There have not been a lot of undershirts that show provocative messages.

However, when Switzerland played Serbia, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration sparked a huge controversy among soccer fans and spectators.

WHY ALWAYS ME? | The Story Of...

Albania was represented with the eagle celebration because the flag contains a double-headed eagle on it. Serbians saw this act as a provocation, and many Serbians were enraged as a result.

When the undershirts of soccer players’ have such provocative words or messages, it usually causes a lot of controversy.

For the above reasons, FIFA would be justified to curb such messages. Truly the International Football Association Body can’t control what soccer players put on their shirts. Players’ jerseys are usually the same throughout the team.

The only differences are the change between soccer players’ names and numbers.

FIFA has no way to control what a player writes beneath their shirt since what is written on the shirt would not be known till the player celebrates a goal. Therefore, there might have been many that have not been revealed since they have not yet scored a goal.

Also, another reason why FIFA does not allow players to take off their shirts is that they could also send personal messages.

For example, in the match between Portugal and Denmark in Euro 2012, Nicklas Bendtner took off his shirt and removed his underpants. He did this as a marketing move, and he was fined a sum of €100,000 and banned for a single match.

Despite having commercial purposes, Nicklas Bendtner’s stunt is an example of an extreme case. Messages by other soccer players are usually tributes to a special person or lighthearted.

Here are examples of situations where soccer players took off their shirts to reveal personal messages:

Mario Balotelli, when he played for Manchester City, was a key figure of the team. Though he was a very talented striker, he had some problems off the pitch.

In a Manchester derby in 2011/12 Premier League season, when Mario Balotelli scored a goal in the 6-1 thrashing, his shirt was taken off to reveal an undershirt with the slogan ‘Why Always Me?’.

This goal by Balotelli was one of the most iconic goals scored in the history of the Premier League.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester City’s owner, passed on on 27 October 2018 in a helicopter crash. Demarai Gray, in the next premier league match, scored a goal which was the only one of the match.

To give a tribute to Khun Vichai, he took off his shirt. Gray was given a yellow card after he scored the goal.

Diego Maradona passed away in November 2020 due to heart failure. In the next match, Barcelona was to play against Osasuna.

Messi scored a goal, and Barcelona won 4-0. After he scored, he took off his shirt to reveal Newell’s Old Boys shirt, which Maradona had previously won to commemorate his death.

Though a moving action, he was still fined after he was booked.

In England’s World Cup qualifier match against Hungary, Raheem Sterling took his shirt off in remembrance of his friend who passed away. After his action, Raheem Sterling was still booked for his offense.

Leon Bailey took his shirt off after he scored his first goal for the 2021/2022 league season for Aston Villa. This action was a tribute to Steffi Gregg, who was his friend. However, similar to Raheem Sterling above, he was still booked for his offense.

Usually, there is no harm in personal messages since there is no malicious intent. However, since IFAB cannot control what soccer players have written on their undershirt, therefore soccer players are discouraged from showing messages by giving them a warning (yellow card).

Another reason for IFAB’s ban on soccer players taking off their shirts is because some countries, cultures, and religions might be offended by the act.

Such countries are usually in the middle east, where showing shirtless men on television is seen as offensive.

Some soccer players wear an additional undershirt below so that their bare chest is not exposed. In addition, at the end of every match, some soccer players usually exchange their jerseys.

Again, though, they are not booked when the shirts are taken off on the pitch, as this is an exception to the rules set in place.

It is worthy of note that female soccer players are not exempted from IFAB’s rule. This rule of not taking off your shirt during the celebration is also applicable to women.

One such moment was of  Brandi Chastain taking off her shirt after she scored the penalty that won her team the women’s World Cup final.

Her act occurred in 1999 when IFAB had not made the rule of soccer players not taking off their shirts.


Soccer players usually take off their shirts after a goal is scored. They do such acts as a form of celebration.

However, the International Football Association Body in 2004 made a rule prohibiting soccer players from taking off their shirts.

This rule requires the referee to give the player a yellow card for his offense.