Why Do Footballers Clap Above Their Heads

3 Reasons Why Footballers Clap Above Their Heads

Last updated on February 2nd, 2021

You may have seen Beckham clapping over his head as he was substituted in his final match before retiring.

Or you may have seen players clapping over their heads at the end of the match.

Footballers usually clap above their heads a sign of appreciation to their fans. They usually do this when they are being substituted out, or at the end of the match.

Here are 3 main reasons why footballers clap above their heads:

  1. Substitutes are permanent in football
  2. Match tickets are expensive
  3. Fans travel a long way to attend away matches

#1 Substitutes are permanent in football

In a game of football, a substitution is permanent. Whenever a player gets substituted out, he will be unable to come back onto the pitch.

Your teammate may get injured and there are no more substitutions left. You still aren’t able to come back into the game and play for your team!

This is in contrast to other sports like basketball and ice hockey which have rolling subs.

In games like basketball, they have an extremely high intensity. What’s more, the basketball court is much smaller. As such, players will tire much more easily compared to footballers.

Basketball players will come and go during the game. This helps to conserve their energy during these high intensity matches.

The impact of a substitution may not be that great since you’ll be able to see the player again!

Football only has 3 substitutes

In contrast, a football match only has 3 substitutes. Most players in a football team will be able to last the full 90 minutes.

For some positions like the goalkeeper, they do not move as much compared to outfield players. This could be one of the reasons why they retire later as well!

A manager may decide to make a substitution if:

  1. The player is injured
  2. He wants to make a tactical change to influence the game

As such, football substitutions are more impactful since this will be the last time you see the player on the pitch. This is why the fans will applaud the player as he leaves the pitch.

In return, the player claps his above his head to thank the fans for their support throughout the match.

Most of the fans are usually seating at an elevated position in the stadium. As such, the player will clap above his head to acknowledge these fans who are seated higher.

Not all players thank their fans

However, some of these players may be frustrated when they get subbed off. They may forget to thank their fans and just storm off the pitch!

This usually occurs because:

  1. The player didn’t perform well
  2. The player is playing well and feels that he could contribute more, but is manager decided to sub him off

#2 Match tickets are expensive

Watching a football match can be really expensive. In the 2019/20 Premier League season, a match-day ticket can range anywhere from 9 pounds (Liverpool) to 97 pounds (Arsenal)!

If you wish to purchase a season ticket, the prices are rather high as well. This phenomenon can also be seen in the Serie A.

Interestingly, season tickets in the Bundesliga are much cheaper.

With such expensive ticket prices, fans are paying a huge price to to support their team. This is why footballers want to thank their fans for coming down to support them.

#3 Fans travel a long way to attend away matches

Coupled with the expensive tickets, fans may need to travel to their opponent’s stadium on away days.

For some games, it may take a bus ride to reach the stadium, if they are not too far away.

When teams need to travel to another country to for certain competitions, their loyal fans will have to travel if they want to support their team.

For the footballers, they will travel to the different country on comfortable flights.

For the fans, it is not so easy. The 2018/19 Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal was hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan. Even though both clubs were from England, their fans had to make a 4,000km (2,500 mile) trip to Baku to watch the match!

It takes a lot of money, time and dedication for a fan to travel to support his team. For the footballers, having someone to cheer you on in a foreign ground is really welcome!

As such, these players would want to thank their fans for having the dedication to support them, no matter how tough it is.


Fans are usually referred to as the 12th man on the pitch. It has been proven that the fans’ cheering has a psychological effect on the players. This will help the players to perform even better on the pitch.

This could be a reason why home teams no longer perform as well with the absence of fans due to COVID-19.

As such, players would always find opportunities to thank these fans for giving them their support throughout the match!

One of the most famous post match celebrations is the Viking Clap by the Iceland team. At the end of the match, the Iceland players would go to their fans and perform the Viking Clap with them.

A fan’s devotion to the club can be extremely high. Some of them will go out of their way just to watch their favourite team play, no matter the distance.

As such, football players will try to make use of every opportunity to thank their loyal fans. One of the ways that these players thank their fans is by clapping above their heads.

Most of their fans are seated high above the players, so they are clapping above their heads to acknowledge these fans.

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