To Shake or Not To Shake

Football has been in the news yet again and sadly once again for all the wrong reasons. The ‘gentleman’s’ game has proved to be anything but, with players refusing to shake opponents hands for a variety of reasons, including accusations of racism.

It’s sad to think that in this day and age, the greatest game in the world, played in just about every country, by every ethnic group, can be beset with disputes about the colour of a player’s skin. The latest dispute was the refusal of Anton Ferdinand of QPR, to shake hands with both John Terry and Ashley Cole, before the game at Loftus Road between QPR and Chelsea. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was reported as saying it was in part the media’s fault for hyping up the pre-match handshake.

Sadly this is too simplistic a view of what is a complex issue, racism is ugly, it highlights the worse side of human nature. It’s too easy in football for a player to wind up his opponents by making comments on the pitch, in the knowledge that this is likely to upset their mindset. This is ungentlemanly and there should be no place for it in sport, it’s time the FA stamped down at each and every opportunity. It’s all too easy for a player afterwards to state that this is acceptable ‘where I come from’ (Saurez v Evra) or some other such platitude, however in the UK, it isn’t acceptable and that should be the end of the matter.

Of course, not all refusals to shake hands are based on racism and there have been some notable exceptions, for instance, players having affairs with other players partners. In times gone by, sport transcended personal feelings, bigotry and hatred, sportsmen treated each other with respect on the field of play. In the tribal world of modern football, a return to these values would surely help take some of the bile out of the terrace chanting, let’s hope so.