Time to scrap the pre-game handshake.

October 5, 2012 2:48 pm


The Handshake:

A simple yet significant act, the handshake between two human beings represents the respect that they have for each other. The introduction of the handshake between professional football players was implemented as part of a ‘respect campaign’ aimed at promoting some more courtesy within the game. It had been seamlessly carried out before every game, but now, in light of recent events, is causing too much trouble than it’s worth.

The wonderful world of football has always got people debating. Whether about incorrect tactics or a wrongful dismissal, masses of people are guaranteed to be texting, tweeting or maybe even talking about it. This is right and healthy for the sport; a discussion over a handshake is ridiculous. The fact that I have the material to write this article shows that too much has needlessly happened on this issue.

Heading up to QPR’s clash with Chelsea on the 15th September 2012, all of the focus and build up was centred on Anton Ferdinand and whether or not he would shake the hands of both John Terry and Ashley Cole (Ferdinand had recently battled Terry in court over alleged racism; Cole supported Terry). He didn’t and it was breaking news, with multiple media outlets leading with the story. Should it really have garnered this amount of attention?

Other previous examples include last season’s Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism row. As with the aforementioned example, everyone’s attention was on them two shaking hands. Evra offered his hand, Suarez refused; the uproar began. This one incident infuriated Patrice and the Manchester United supporters, creating a hostile feeling of hatred, mostly targeted at Suarez. The actual football took a back seat that day, with the majority of fans remembering this and not the score line.

Many managers have praised the idea to eradicate this pre-match ritual, including QPR’s Mark Hughes. He stated “I’ve got the utmost respect for the Respect campaign and I think it has done great work. But this element is something that causes more problems than it solves.” This quote demonstrates that even knowledgeable, senior football figures agree that the handshake before games has no purpose and therefore no place.

The idea that the removal of it will reduce the respect that players have for each other is flawed. Showing respect for someone should not be forced and definitely should be earned; a handshake after the match is sufficient (if the players want to). All of the build-up and the act itself manifest more problems than solutions. Doing away with it would increase the focus on the beautiful game and dissolve the attention on these ugly situations.

FIFA, UEFA and the FA have pushed the ‘respect campaign’, which has been rightfully applauded throughout the game. But, all of these organisations need to realise that players will respect each other without having a pre-match handshake. It is mainly for show and if they do not mean it, it is pointless.

hand shake

Whether it’s a unique goal or a crazy celebration, children and people from grassroots football imitate everything they witness in the stands or on the television. Positive examples are required if the next generation are to be respectful of their peers. Seeing rejected handshakes before a game promotes the wrong message; players can pick and choose who they wish to respect in a match, singling them out for non-footballing reasons. The absence of a pre-game handshake would increase the focus on the football, which is great for everyone concerned.

Declaring that such a minimal act has such a massive effect isn’t outrageous. Its meaning is universally recognised by young and old, but is has its time and place. Before a game highlights issues that should stay off the pitch, after it shows respect for the way the opponent has played, congratulating them if they were victorious.

The future of this wonderful sport will fare a lot better with the pre-game handshake eradicated. In order for a truly respectable game that avoids aggravating problems between players, it needs to go.

Stephen Rowlinson

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