Grealish tapped home the Three Lions’ final goal from close-range as they dispatched Iran 6-2 on Monday, marking the moment with a broad smile as he stretched his arms out to the side and rolled them in waves.
Far from this being a flippant or spontaneous reaction, the Manchester City forward was actually keeping a pledge he made to an 11-year-old boy called Finlay, who has cerebral palsy.
City and England fan Finlay wrote to his favourite player earlier this year, referencing Grealish’s close bond with sister Holly, who also has the condition.
“I wish there were more people in the world just like you who treat people with disabilities the same as anyone else,” Finlay wrote. Grealish followed up with a letter of his own and also made a surprise visit to meet Finlay in person at a football session run by the City In The Community programme.
It was there that he pledged to dedicate his next goal to Finlay, who initially suggested the more challenging dance move ‘the worm’ before settling on the arm gesture Grealish recreated in Qatar.
Speaking after the game, Grealish told ITV: “I said to him that the next time I score I would do the celebration for (him).
“I don’t know how he’d rate my dance moves – to be honest I ain’t the best dancer, unless it’s later on in the night – but, honestly, I had to do it and I think he’ll be buzzing at home that it happened in a World Cup instead of the Premier League.”
He added: “To score a World Cup goal is something you dream of when you’re a little kid. To do that was unbelievable.”
Grealish also took to Twitter after the victory over Iran to send a message that read, “For you Finlay,” alongside a clip of the original video and a picture of his celebration.
England manager Gareth Southgate hailed Grealish for his gesture.
Southgate said: “He’s a lovely human being. He obviously has a situation with his own sister and that would mean that he’s very aware of the power he can have.
“He’s a kind person, so we’re very fortunate. We work with a group of players who have a hunger to play, they’re a pleasure to work with. They have humility, but they also think about this and it’s unusual to have a group like we’ve got.”