I’m not going to go into the morals of each event; I only intend to show that it is a pointless exercise
An original use of the handshake was to convey that you carried no weapons. I don’t believe this is the reason why the handshake routine was introduced for the 2008-09 season, but it seemed to have been introduced as some sort of show of peace and respect. What the Premier League didn’t count on was people refusing to shake hands, and the publicity that this would cause. I’m not going to go into the morals of each event; I only intend to show that it is a pointless exercise.
There have now been a few games in the Premiership over recent years where there seemed to be more cameras focused on the handshake than the game that followed. You feel that some people tuned in just to see if they shook hands. It would be the result of about a week’s discussion about if they would or should shake hands. Something really sticks in my throat if the game of football is not the centre stage at a football match. This also applies to players making their return to grounds; how will they be treated by their once adoring fans? Who cares! I tune in to watch a game of football, not to see if Torres gets booed or cheered by the Anfield fans when he touches a ball. When the issue of a handshake becomes the primary focus of a football match, it draws into view the fact that handshakes draw either no press or bad press. Could it ever draw positive press?
There was actually one occasion when this could have happened. When Patrice Evra offered his hand out to Luis Suarez at Old Trafford, there was the chance for the players to publicly show that they had put their previous differences behind them. For his own reasons, Suarez declined the offer. As I have previously said, I don’t wish to say whether or not Evra was right to offer his hand or if Suarez was right to decline to shake it; the matter is now closed. What I do mean to say is that even if they had shaken hands, it would have been as superficial as all the other handshakes that happen around all the other grounds around the country. Evra may have offered his hand to Suarez but there were clearly still some strong feelings on the issue. Twice during the game I remember Evra throwing himself into tackles with Suarez, on one occasion clattering into Rio Ferdinand instead. There was also the event after the game where Evra purposefully celebrated the victory in front of Suarez. Hardly the actions of a man who had moved on, yet he offered to shake his hand. This highlights the superficial nature of the pre-match handshake, in reality a forced handshake means nothing.
“He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands” - Sepp Blatter
You don’t need reminding of this controversy; the president of FIFA saying that he believes racism can be resolved with a handshake. For weeks players, journalists and fans shook their heads in disbelief at this statement. How could the president of FIFA trivialise the issue of racism? Considering the outrage over this statement it makes you wonder why there is any debate over the recent handshake issue between John Terry, Anton Ferdinand and Ashley Cole. If we so strongly believe that racism is not solved with a handshake, why are we even putting Terry and Ferdinand in a formal handshake routine? Is asking them to shake hands not agreeing to the stance of Blatter?
Finally, I’m sure you all watched the Olympics. Ever since it finished I’ve been hearing how the Olympians set the standard that footballers should follow. Let me ask you this; in all the events you saw, how many had a handshake routine where all the competitors taking part shook each other’s hand? I’ll give you a clue, it’s the same number of times a handshake routine has happened before a golf tournament, or most other sports. The fact of the matter is that it is not part of sporting tradition; the handshake after playing is the true mark of respect between opponents.
In summary, I believe the pre-match handshake should be scrapped for many reasons. Not just because it makes the football match the side-show on certain occasions and that the only press it receives is bad, but even if people were to shake hands after having a certain history (see Evra and Suarez); the handshake is still a superficial display. Not to mention that it is not part of any other sporting tradition, they realise that you respect your opponents after you have competed with them. Get it out and get talking about football!