Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned as the man in the mask at the weekend as he celebrated his opener for Borussia Dortmund against Schalke. Only this time, with the assistance of a sly swoosh shove, he's stirred up a bit of storm between the club and their sponsor PUMA.
As he wheeled away to celebrate putting Dortmund 1-0 up against Schalke in a derby game that they eventually drew 1-1, Aubameyang grabbed a superhero mask and pulled it over his head – a stunt he's done many time before. But, only in the aftermath of the game did it emerge that Aubameyang or #Aubaman's celebration was part of the promotional campaign for the Nike Hypervenom, rubbing PUMA up the wrong way in the process.
Regardless of boot contracts all professional players are only allowed to wear accessories in the same brand as the official club kit manufacturer; whether that's gloves, baselayer, snoods, or in this case a superhero mask. Yep, football is weird sometimes. As Aubameyang's mask was based on the design of the Nike 'Strike Night' Hypervenom 3 football boot, his cheeky, although relatively innocent trick has left club officials with questions to answer and a potential fine coming the way of the player.
Dortmund’s CEO Hans Joachim Watzke has weighed in by saying: "This behaviour is unworthy of a big corporation. It can’t be that we have to force through the economic interest of Nike in this way. Our partner is PUMA. We are surprised that a competitor puts a player in such a situation." The correct political stance, but it's all just a bit of fun isn't it? Remember when football was fun? Money talks... even when muffled under a sponsored mask.
Aubameyang celebrating in a Spiderman mask against Bayern Munich in 2014.
Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel was also pressed on the matter, explaining; “We believed it might be a sequel to his Batman/Spiderman celebrations. It makes things more difficult now. You can address harsh criticism to him, and punish him, and he won’t bear grudges but will try to understand the other side." Can we all calm down a bit, yeah? We'd play the second half of every game in a crash helmet if Ducati threw the right amount of digits our way.
A bed sheet and sharp pair of scissors was all Facundo Sava needed.