The Guardian’s Les Roopanarine on one of the most controversial goal celebrations since the time Robbie Fowler mimicked snorting up the touch line.

Having scored the second goal in Everton’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth Sunday, Everton midfielder Tim Cahill crossed his wrists as if handcuffed. He later admitted that the gesture was intended as a show of support for his older brother, Sean, who received a six-year jail sentence in January for grievous bodily harm.

“Basically, it’s for my older brother,” said Cahill. “Everyone knows my situation and I am just proud that he is happy and I am happy and I’m thinking of him always. My family means a lot to me and so does this football club. It’s been a bit emotional but it’s good.”

Everton moved quickly to defuse criticism of Cahill’s actions. “Goal celebrations are a personal matter and up to the player to decide,” said a club spokesman. “No one dictates what the player can do as long as he stays within the laws of the game, as long as it doesn’t result in a caution. It clearly was a very personal thing for Tim Cahill. Anyone who saw the pictures will see he was emotional and it meant a lot to him.

“Tim is a highly intelligent young man and makes his own decisions and saw fit to send a message to his brother, if that’s what he was doing. He is a very articulate young man and will have weighed up the pros and cons and decided to do it because it was a personal and emotional matter. I am sure Tim was fully aware that some people would not be in favour of what he did before he did it.”

Cahill’s brother was sentenced to jail in January following what police described as a “brutal and terrifying” attack on a man outside a taxi office in Bromley, Kent on 11 July 2004. CCTV controllers spotted Cahill as he twice kicked his prone victim in the head, leaving him partially blinded.