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The story behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Dragon Ball celebration

The striker’s unusual celebration punctuated a man-of-the-match performance in el clásico

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is known for his celebrations. Whether it’s his standard one - a backflip - or unusual ones he’s concocted over the years, such as wearing a Black Panther mask and giving the “Wakanda forever” salute - Aubameyang knows how to mark a moment. And he had plenty to celebrate in FC Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Real Madrid.

Aubameyang scored twice and assisted another in his first appearance in el clásico, and was seen as the man of the match by most observers. And while he celebrated every goal, the celebration that turned the most heads was when he went to the sideline, picked up an orange ball, closed his eyes, and touched his forehead.

As he later explained, the gesture was a reference to the popular manga and anime series Dragon Ball.

“It was a ball from Dragon Ball. With it, you can make a wish. I wanted to win and score a goal for my grandparents, who are gone. A friend of mine gave it to me,” he said.

That friend, it turns out, was Alejandro Nicolas. He’s a tattoo artist who has put artwork onto many Barcelona players over the years such as Jordi Alba. Marc Bartra, Ivan Rakitić, and David Villa.

For the celebration to happen, the conditions had to be just right. First, Aubameyang had to score at least one goal. And second, he had to score it in the second half, when he would be close to where his friend was sitting. Presumably, also, the goal had to mean something, in order to not look ridiculous should he score a consolation goal, for example.

All of those things happened. Aubameyang scored in the first half, but it was in the opposite end. However, he scored again in the second half, and it was the goal that put the game away as well.

The striker took to Twitter to post the image alongside that of Goku, the main character from Dragon Ball. He simultaneously mocked those who had said his career was over after he had gone through a difficult end to his time at Arsenal, by writing “hello from the finished player.”

The gesture Auba did corresponds with the “Instant Transmission” power that Dragon Ball characters use. It’s a power that grants Goku, or anyone who uses it, the ability to teleport over a long distance.

Dragon Ball is one of the biggest anime and manga series, with multiple TV and film versions. One of the central points of the franchise is that whoever can collect ten mystical spheres called dragon balls can summon a dragon that will grant almost any wish.