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When someone has complete authority over you, the temptation to assert yourself, even in secret, can be overwhelming. A kid gets lectured by his parents, then sighs and says, “Yeah, whatever,” as soon as they’re out of earshot. A student spends his time in detention writing curse words on the underside of his desk.

Or, a professional soccer player seemingly flips off the referee while his back is turned.

We understand that emotions run high during the World Cup, and not just for the fans. The opportunity to shine on soccer’s biggest stage comes just once every four years. With so much time between tournaments, players’ skills can peak and start to decline, so for many the games going on in Brazil right now are very likely their last chance of winning the sport’s highest honor.

This is likely the case for Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles and defender Pepe, who are both now 31 years old and probably don’t have many more World Cup appearances left in their future.

Portugal got off to a very rocky start in Brazil, though, falling 4-0 in its opener against Germany. Trailing 2-0, Pepe was penalized 37 minutes into the contest when he head-butted Germany’s Thomas Mueller. It’s a little hard to believe the contact was unintentional, either, as Mueller was sitting on the ground when the incident happened. Out came the red card, and Pepe was done for the day.

▼ Head-butting: Getting people ejected from World Cup matches since 2006!

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None of these developments seemed to sit well with Meireles, though, as the Mohawk-sporting sportsman appeared to offer the following dissenting opinion.

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We know the referee doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, but did Meireles really think no one else would notice his silent protest at the most popular sporting event on the planet? Isn’t giving the double bird salute a needlessly bold and crass gesture?

Actually, it looks like the Portuguese midfielder may have second-guessed his form of expression at the last second. A closer look at the photo above reveals those are his index fingers pointing up, not his middle ones.

So if he wasn’t flipping off the referee, what message was Meireles trying to convey with the two raised digits? Was he courteously signaling stadium officials to make sure Germany’s the proper goal count of 2 at the time was correctly displayed on the scoreboard? Had he, dejected, already conceded defeat to the German squad by announcing to all present, “We’re number two?”

Perhaps the best theory comes from Japanese Twitter user Beribu.

“He’s dowsing! Meireles must be looking for a vein of gold under the pitch.”

It’s as good an explanation as any. Just to avoid any confusion, though, we recommend the defender invest in a good old-fashioned dowsing stick if he plans to continue his search for precious metals during Portugal’s next match against the U.S. on June 22.

▼ It’s the only way to be sure no one gets the wrong idea.

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Sources: Jin, Twitter, Yahoo!
Top image: Twitter
Insert images: WordPress, Wrong But Funny