What is a Guard of Honor in Soccer?

In the world of soccer, a sport that unites millions through its passion and excitement, there are moments that transcend competition and underscore the spirit of sportsmanship.

One such moment is the “guard of honor.”

This ceremonial tradition is a unique and respectful gesture, showcasing a blend of camaraderie and admiration among players, teams, and fans.

In this article, we’re going to be detailing exactly what this soccer term is all about, exploring its cultural heritage in the process.

Without further ado, let’s get started!


What does guard of honor mean in soccer?

The guard of honor is a ceremonial practice in soccer where one team forms two parallel rows, creating a pathway for the opposing team to walk through. This is usually done when the opposing team has recently achieved a significant accomplishment, such as winning a league title or a major tournament. The team forming the guard pays tribute to the achievement and displays a spirit of sportsmanship.

what is a guard of honor in soccer - opposing team pays tribute

Now it’s important to note that the guard of honor goes beyond a mere ritual.

It’s a powerful symbol of unity and respect that characterizes the essence of sportsmanship.

By forming a pathway for the victorious team, players from both sides showcase their mutual admiration and recognition of talent and dedication.

When a team wins a league title, a domestic cup, or even an international tournament, their achievement is acknowledged by their competitors.

The guard of honor is basically a way for the winning team to receive recognition and applause for their hard work and success.

Ultimately, the tradition represents a moment of unity and respect in the midst of fierce competition.


Which guard of honor moments have been the most memorable in the history of the sport?

Throughout soccer history, there have been several memorable guard of honor moments that stand out.

Here are a few examples worth noting:


1. Barcelona guard of honor for Real Madrid (2008)

One such instance is when FC Barcelona formed a guard for Real Madrid in 2008 as a sign of respect for Real Madrid’s league title victory.

In this particular campaign, Real Madrid won the league title comfortably with an 18 point margin separating the two Spanish giants.

What was even more damning for Barcelona was the fact that they could only manage to secure a 3rd place finish that season, as the team finished 10 points adrift of second-placed Villareal.

This gesture highlighted the intense rivalry between the two teams, while also showcasing the mutual respect they hold for each other’s achievements.


2. Paris Saint Germain guard of honor for Lionel Messi (2023)

On the back of a successful FIFA World Cup campaign which saw Argentina emerge victorious against France in the final, Lionel Messi received a huge welcome return to the Parisian club.

His team mates formed a guard of honor for him as he captained his team to victory in the world’s most prestigious competitive tournament.

Here’s some video footage of this happening at the Campus PSG training ground (also known as the Paris Saint-Germain training center):


3. Arsenal guard of honor for Manchester United (2013)

This one hurt a lot for Arsenal players, especially because their former team mate Robin van Persie was part of the title celebrations.

Bacary Sagna spoke about how he felt seeing Arsenal’s former captain walk out of the tunnel as a champion:

“It probably felt special for him because when he left he was criticised by many people. We all felt the same in the team and we respected him. I was happy for him. He did a lot for our team. He was a top player and a top striker and he deserved it.  Life is full of choices and he made the choice to leave and to play for United. I totally respected that and was happy for him.”

Source – The Telegraph


When was the guard of honor tradition invented?

The roots of the guard of honor tradition can be traced back to earlier centuries, when chivalrous knights would form a guard to welcome dignitaries or royalty.

In soccer, this tradition was first observed in Scotland in the late 19th century.

Over the years, it has evolved into a global phenomenon, with teams from various leagues and nations participating in this respectful display of appreciation.

Additionally, this tradition isn’t confined to a specific league or region; it’s a universal practice that transcends borders.

Teams from different continents and leagues have engaged in this ceremonial gesture.

More so, it serves as a testament to the global nature of soccer and the shared values of sportsmanship and camaraderie.


How do professional soccer players and fans usually feel about this tradition?

For players on both sides, the guard of honor is a unique experience that evokes a range of emotions.

The players forming the guard may feel a mix of admiration, camaraderie, and a touch of competitive spirit.

On the other hand, the players walking through the guard feel a sense of accomplishment and validation for their hard work.

It’s a moment that transcends rivalry and highlights the bond shared by athletes.

On the other hand, soccer fans are an integral part of the sport, and they eagerly anticipate guard of honor moments.

It’s a chance for supporters to demonstrate their class and sportsmanship as well.

Fans in the stadium often join in the applause and celebrations, showcasing their appreciation for exceptional achievement.

Furthermore, the guard of honor isn’t just a show of respect between players on the pitch; it also symbolizes the larger picture of building bridges among people.

In a world often divided by differences, soccer has the power to unite individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.

This tradition serves as a reminder of the potential for harmony and understanding.


Concluding thoughts

In the dynamic and fiercely competitive world of soccer, the guard of honor shines as a beacon of sportsmanship and unity.

It’s a simple yet powerful gesture that speaks volumes about the values that underpin the beautiful game.

As teams continue to compete and strive for victory, the guard of honor stands as a reminder that respect, admiration, and unity are as important as the pursuit of trophies.

Anyway, before you go have a look at our article discussing soccer’s most important fixtures.

Samuel Waihenya
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