Diego Forlán changed the world of soccer forever – and all because he took too long to put his jersey back on.
You might remember Diego Forlán as the fierce blonde striker known for his goals with LaLiga giants Villarreal and Atlético Madrid. Or as the man scoring amazing golazos in the 2010 FIFA World Cup with Uruguay during their historic run to a third-placed finish.
He was a bad man.
However, while many equate the Uruguayan’s name with scoring goals, during the early stage of his European career — one of definite great struggle — the Garra Charrúa was known for everything but his goalscoring abilities. In fact, fans of his first European club remember him from a moment that was both hilarious and historically precedent setting.
A Look Back At The Diego Forlán No Shirt Celebration for Manchester United
Yes, you read it right.
In 2002, Manchester United completed its transfer of 22-year-old Diego Forlán from Argentina’s Independiente, and he become the first-ever player from Uruguay to play for the Red Devils.
His 26 goals and five assists in 44 games for the Argentine club, as well as his incredible abilities at such a young age, seemed like the perfect set of skills needed to play for a United side that thrived on young talent under Sir Alex Ferguson.
The result? The complete opposite.
When he debuted in the Premier League, the striker went 23 games without scoring a single goal, raising questions from fans and the media over his transfer to the Red Devils.
Goals, after almost a full season's worth of playing in England, were in short supply and the pressure began to make the Uruguayan crumble. Up until that night against Southhampton.
In Matchday 12 of the 2002/03 Premier League season, Diego Forlán came in as a substitute in the closing minutes against Southampton looking to make an impact in the effort to getting the three points the Saints were momentarily putting on hold.
The game stretched on and the winning result seemed out of reach for a United side unable to break the Southampton defense. A defense that would only be able to be broken by one of those Diego Forlán goals.
The Uruguayan picked up a pass up at the edge of the box, looked up at goal and knuckled the ball into the upper left of the goalkeeper, turning in his first-ever night of glory with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Shirt-off-celebration for the glorious occasion.
Veron ➡️ Forlan ➡️ Back of the net ☄️How many of you were able to identify @DiegoForlan7's rocket v the Saints?#MUFC #MUNSOU https://t.co/9jb1WHc6vp pic.twitter.com/vJSqGwM7oD
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 13, 2020
The Theatre of Dreams was buzzing.
Forlán was on a cloud, living one of the best moments of his young career, losing track of all time, space and reality. The euphoria, however, skewed him away from the fact that while the ‘Uruguayo’ was still celebrating his goal, the game had already renewed and his jersey was still wrapped around his arm.
The striker, in the urge of getting back to work on the pitch, disregarded the fact he hadn’t put his jersey back on, running back on defense and winning the ball back for his team — all while playing skins.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 19, 2020
He spent almost a minute of the game without a shirt on and needed almost three kit men to help him put it back on.
An instant-classic Premier League moment… that eventually made its way down to the desks at FIFA.
"Thanks a lot, Forlán" — FIFA establishes rule against removing jerseys after Diego Forlán no shirt celebration
A minute without a jersey was a minute too long for the people at FIFA headquarters.
Shortly after Forlán’s jersey malfunction against Southampton (and with the clip of the Uruguayan making its way around media outlets), FIFA decided to impose a new rule punishing players who unnecessarily decided to remove their jersey.
From the 2003/04 campaign on, any player who removed his or her jersey in a goal celebration was to receive a yellow card from the referee, no questions asked.
The professionalism of the action and the delay of the game (as was the case with Diego Forlán) were the main reasons for the rule.
Goal celebrations without a jersey were no more, at least not without a yellow card. While FIFA has never regarded the Diego Forlán no shirt celebration as the direct culprit driving the decision, the prominence of the incident, as well as the timing of the new rule point to none other than the legendary striker for changing goal celebrations forever.
All because of his inability to score Premier League goals on a regular basis.