The FA’s respect campaign has been running for a long time now. And nothing is more apparent than in the pre-match handshakes between opposing players just before kick off.
Over the last few weeks this has taken center stage. In some matches you’d be forgiven for forgetting there was actually any football on show. From Anton Ferdinand not shaking John Terry’s and Ashley Cole’s hand and the will they/won’t they debate over the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra handshake.
Is the pre-match handshake a load of rubbish, though? Is it right that the handshake is before the match wherein anything can happen – where the real player/referee respect should take place?
The idea behind the handshake is an admirable one. To show that football, despite it’s singular reality, can show respect in the same way that workers of the same profession/work place/friends and family units do. It is within this idea, however, that it is fundamentally flawed.
The handshake shouldn’t take place before a match – it may even be best to scrap it altogether. It appears to just be a clever facade masking a meaningless gimmick – something they grudgingly have to do – as when the players do eventually take the field, respect is as far from their mind as sex is to a chronic World of Warcraft player.
Every little petulant moment and self-indulgent whim is exposed on the field and players will do anything to help their team win the three points – imaginary card waving, diving, swearing at referees and fellow professionals, and in the case of John Terry, racist abuse toward a fellow professional.
And herein lies the problem. John Terry and Luis Suarez are the most high-profile cases which have really sparked this debate. Choosing when and who to shake hands with goes head-to-head with the point of the pre-match handshake; and The FA’s now much-maligned respect campaign.
Who can blame Anton Ferdinand, though? I certainly wouldn’t shake John Terry’s or Ashley Cole’s hand but quite why David Luiz refused to shake Ferdinand’s hand is quite beyond me. Solidarity with your teammate is one thing but solidarity with a racist? Surely he knows that Ferdinand is the victim in this. And Luis Suarez’s reputation now as a deceitful diver which is seeing legitimate penalty claims turned down.
Other sports, rougher more violent sports I hasten to add, promote respect as being paramount to its integrity. Take rugby and boxing where the object of the game is to knock seven shades of shit out of each other, but where after the game and after the fight, the respect between the opposition is apparent to see. And is lauded through-out the sporting world as being the sports to copy.
The rugby players form a ‘tunnel’ for the opposition to walk down while applauding and shaking their hands, while in boxing, after the winner has been announced, he celebrates by congratulating and hugging the losing fighter and the fighter’s corner before celebrating with his own.
The action on the football pitch proves that the pre-match handshake is completely meaningless. It should be scrapped and proves nothing between professionals, proves nothing to fans and doesn’t promote or advocate the idea of respect.
If the FA want to stumble blindly on promoting respect within football then maybe they could learn something from other sports.
Written by William Hold
Follow him on Twitter @liam17oi
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