In 1962, Marvel Comics introduced the comic book character Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15. “Spidey” soon became a pop-culture icon and the face of Marvel Comics, his character appealing to children, teenagers, and adults alike.
Spider-Man’s popularity surged with each big-screen adaptation of his story; undoubtedly, his fan base soared even higher after a Lionel Messi goal celebration Friday conjured thoughts of the “Webhead” on the football field.
During the last game, Messi’s 86th-minute goal secured Inter Miami's 4-0 victory over Charlotte. After the goal, Messi folded his middle fingers on each hand to his palm and, with index and pinkie fingers extended, began “shooting” imaginary web (Spider-Man cannot produce his webs biologically; he relies on a solution he shoots from a mechanism on each hand. Folding his fingers inward activates the webspinners.)
Friday wasn’t Messi’s, first time incorporating the superhero theme into his on-field celebrations. Since his debut in American football, Messi has consistently added flair to his goal celebrations inspired by characters from Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
On July 22, Messi made his debut appearance wearing Inter Miami’s jersey in a Leagues Cup match against Mexican side Cruz Azul. On that significant day, the Argentinian captain, a World Cup champion, drilled a game-winning free-kick just over the keeper’s fingers. His celebration featured arms extended in a triumphant display.
In its next match, Messi's Miami squad triumphed over Atlanta United with a commanding 4-0 victory. The 'superhero' nods began during that game. Messi celebrated by raising his arms, mimicking Thor's 'catch-the-throat' gesture, which resembles Thor wielding his mighty hammer.
Messi then secured a 3-1 victory against Orlando City in the following round. In another celebration, Messi emulated the Black Panther's iconic 'Wakanda Forever' stance, with crossed arms over his chest. And today, Messi channeled Spider-Man in his celebration, striking a pose reminiscent of the web-slinging superhero.
Initially, there was some confusion surrounding Messi's Thor-inspired celebration. His wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, later clarified the gesture. On Instagram, Roccuzzo playfully wrote, "Thor's Day." Reports from soccer-focused media outlet Goal.com suggested that Messi's sons are avid Marvel enthusiasts, offering a personal connection to his celebrations. Yet, various other theories have emerged regarding Messi's celebratory choices.
Marvelous or marketing?
While Messi has yet to adopt a Captain America celebration, Adidas did reveal a warm-up jersey featuring Captain America's shield in June. Messi has a marketing contract with Adidas, which suggests that Marvel may be behind Messi’s superhero celebrations. Marvel does indeed have connections with MLS. In June, MLS, Adidas, and Marvel jointly announced plans to showcase Marvel's superheroes on MLS merchandise. Altogether, it's plausible that trade dynamics might be intertwined with Messi's celebratory choices.
Nevertheless, fans are embracing Messi's special celebrations, whether driven by childlike delight or commercial interests. The focus remains on relishing Messi's goals and the exuberance of his celebrations.
Who's to say, in the future, Messi might not channel Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, or Groot, further igniting Messi mania across the United States.
Messi's upcoming match for Inter Miami is scheduled for Aug. 16 against Philadelphia in the Leagues Cup semi-finals. It will be interesting to see if Messi continues his celebratory streak by commemorating a goal that day.