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Footballers, Respect & The Importance Of The Handshake

In the wake of the John Terry – Anton Ferdinand and Luis Suarez – Partrice Evra handshake-gates, Marvin Williams looks at the importance of the pre-match ritual

Guest post by Marvin Williams

The handshake between opposing players’ prior kickoff signifies an exchange of respect. It serves as a reminder to each individual player the responsibility they hold not only in regards to themselves, but equally towards their fellow pro. And that despite embarking on a competitive ninety minutes of football it will be done so in the right spirit.

The large share of times the handshake occurs without any issues, but seldom when it doesn’t, it makes headlines and is followed by an overwhelming call for the practice to be scrapped. The suggestion to do so however is an absurd over exaggeration and there’s a need for the myths that surround it to be distilled.

Now I definitely appear to be in the minority with this one. The bandwagon’s been in full speed as it made its way across the M4, stopping in West London to allow the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand saga to add fuel to the tank. As anticipated Ferdinand snubbed both Terry and Cole, and was later followed by captain Ji Sung Park who also refused the hand of the Chelsea captain. But beyond that all the support and the reasons given to oppose it are feeble.


What exactly was said in the exchange between the two players we’ll likely never know, but admittedly both men said a number of distasteful things to one another. Again this weekend almost an identical situation brews between with Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra when Liverpool take on Manchester United at Anfield.

Whilst I’m an advocate of the ritual, I also recognise that the decision to shake hands is the prerogative of each individual. Ferdinand’s refusal can be well justified and wasn’t an act of mere petulance whilst you may argue that Suarez’s own differs. However how the isolated incident(s) can equate to a complete failure of the practice is beyond me. It is rather an attempt at a solution (its effectiveness can be argued) and if the values of which it stood for where emphasised a little more it would only be to the betterment of the sport.

The media

I often detest the cliché “the media” as with fans alike they all have different opinions, and many are astute in what they do. However this week they collectively perpetuated the stereotype of creating an issue with the prominence they placed on ‘handshake-gate’.

Mark Hughes’ claims epitomize this as he stated at his pre match press conference, “When I saw the list of questions that I was likely to have to answer today, there were nine on the handshakes and one on Hillsborough, ridiculous.” And utterly ridiculous it was. The event which lasted no longer than a few seconds was magnified, so much so that you could be forgiven for forgetting a Premier League game was on.

When Roberto Di Matteo was again asked in his post match interview what he thought could be done about it, he echoed the views of Hughes calling for there to a lot less written and broadcast on the matter.


The sole basis of my argument is to the importance of respect in all areas of the game. Players will do well remembering and enforcing that, as opposed to diving, attempting to get each other sent off and insulting one another.

The FA’s efforts to combat this through their initiatives will totally be undermined by them pandering to calls of its dismissal. There needs to be a continued effort from all those involved in the game to be made accountable for their actions, instead of willingly offering them an easy way out. I can almost hear the screams from the computer screens, ‘it’s only a handshake, it doesn’t mean that much’. But I would argue that it means a whole lot but that has just been forgotten somewhere.

What are your thoughts on the importance of the pre-match handshake? Get involved in the comments section.

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