On the pre-match handshake
This is my opinion. I did not seek out opinions from any other contributors on this blog, so I want it known that they may or may not agree with me and I am not speaking for this group as a whole.
This past weekend, a HUGE firestorm re-erupted in the longstanding rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool. As I’m sure everyone knows by now, during the pre-match walk-by/handshake, Luis Suarez of Liverpool allegedly refused to shake Manchester United’s Patrice Evra’s hand. Suarez was then summarily snubbed by United’s Rio Ferdinand. The genesis of all this was an on-pitch situation between Suarez and Evra where Suarez was accused (and subsequently suspended eight matches for) of racially abusing Evra.
I am not here to discuss the ins and outs of the racial abuse situation. What I am here to discuss is this antiquated ridiculous notion that these players MUST shake hands before the match starts. It’s merely a formality at this point, a ritual that has existed for a long time, but has now outstayed it’s overlong welcome.
Why should any of these players be forced to shake hands before the match? The captains and officials already meet before the match in the center circle for the introductions, captains handshakes, and coin toss. That should be enough pre-match pomp and chivalry right there, in my opinion. If players choose to seek each other out before the match to exchange hellos, so be it, but this idea of a formal line of handshakes with the cameras trained to catch any slight is beyond ridiculous at this point.
I understand that Evra was supposedly being the bigger man by being willing to shake Suarez’s hand and let the racial incident come to a close, but honestly, he couldn’t have been happy about it. I’m absolutely sure that Suarez did not want to shake Evra’s hand and the evidence to that was pretty obvious. Why should they have to if they cannot stand each other? Yes, it’s a sporting thing to do, but many many players have made it a point to be even more sportsman-like after the matches are over and do so with hugs, handshakes, and exchanges of shirts. That is more than enough for me, quite frankly.
I think the media took a HUGE amount of pleasure in what happened on Saturday. They got what they were hoping for, and even more, as Suarez’s gesture then apparently caused a tunnel incident at half, and the stewards had to separate Evra and Suarez after the match when Evra made sure to celebrate directly in front of him, as United claimed a 2-1 victory.
There have been plenty of situations like this, too, this is not the first time I’ve thought this. Obviously the mess between John Terry and Wayne Bridge is another recent issue that was played out in the player lines as they ignored each other over handshakes. Why should they be forced to even confront each other if one definitely doesn’t want to? If they wanted a word or whatever, the post-match timeframe was when it should have happened. The same is true of Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez. Again, this is no commentary on what Suarez allegedly did, because racism has no part in society let alone football. What I am commenting on is that this contrived sportsmanship has run its course and should be put to rest. Let them shake hands after the match ends if they want to, and have done with this ridiculous antiquated made-for-television ritual.