A brief view on why the now infamous pre-match handshakes are important to football
Once more, the act of sportsmanship before a football match is thrown back into the limelight following Anton Ferdinand’s decision to snub the hands of both John Terry and Ashley Cole prior to Kick Off in QPR’s goalless draw with Chelsea at Loftus Road. Despite it being the symbol that epitomises the Respect campaign, more and more people are beginning to wonder why it should still exist in football.
In recent times, the handshake has been known to take prominence over the game itself. We have seen the Terry - Bridge snubbing, and just as infamously Suarez-Evra. The decision to not shake hands has far reaching consequences in football, as not only does it detract attention form the game itself, but it sets a poor example to our grass-roots youngsters who take to the field every Sunday.
It is argued that football is one of the only sports to have a pre-match handshake. Take Rugby for example, another very popular sport in the UK. They do not engage in pre-match amity, and have a better reputation for respecting both the opposition, and the referees. This is in stark contrast to football, where respecting the referees requires a national campaign; Respect.
Nevertheless, football is worth a vast amount of money, especially in comparison to many other sports around the world, such as rugby. This leads to it being viewed and played by most people, especially youngsters, who look up to their stars in the Premier League. Therefore, the handshake is a pivotal way in which football preaches the ideal of sportsmanship and respect to younger generations, who in turn will not only look to apply it on the football pitch, but potentially in society as well.
It is also one of the only ways football can do so. Football receives a lot of bad press, which goes without saying, as you only need to look at the Terry-Ferdinand case to see what I mean. In football most players will mouth off to the ref, and it will go unpunished. In football, opposition fans will scream abuse at each other for ninety minutes. It is not, on the face of it, a sport that boasts emphatically the importance of Fair Play. However, it’s prevalence in life for many of all age’s means that it has a responsibility to demonstrate how to respect both the referee and the other team in some form. This achieved by the pre-match handshake, which reminds everyone, that football is just a game, and the values of sportsmanship and respect are more important than it.
It is perfectly understandable why in some instances a player want to avoid shaking hands with an opposition player. I am not disregarding the cases for reasons why a snub can take place. Yet the bottom line is this. Footballers have a duty to exhibit how to act both on a football pitch and off it. Any wrongs should be dealt with by the FA and sometimes even the courts, and if they deserve to be punished, then they should be punished severely. Players shouldn’t take the matter, quite literally, into their own hands. Snubbing the hand of an opposition player, no matter what they’ve done, is not the best example. Rising to it and being the bigger man, however, is.