The ‘GOALden’ Handshakes

To shake ‘after’ the act is universal among men. But to shake ‘before’ the match….well, that doesn’t seem so universal. Indranath Mukherjee tries his hand at this shake

It was an early Saturday morning in New York City and the name of the game was football; although the Americans call it soccer. While in ‘American Football’ the players can use their hands legally, in ‘Football’ only ‘God’ has that privilege. On that particular Saturday, the two English rivals, Manchester United and Liverpool were playing football but the world was talking about what Luis Suarez did not do with his hand. Suarez was coming back from his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra and coincidentally his come-back game was against Manchester United. During the customary pre-kick-off handshakes between players of either team, Suarez chose to ignore Evra. Soon thereafter, updates over the internet, especially on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter started pouring in, speaking of his immature conduct.
We are neither the judge nor the jury to ascertain whether such behaviour was becoming of Suarez or not.  However, we would like to take this opportunity to look back at some similar incidents on the field that are etched in our memories.

We begin with the usual suspect – the John Terry and Wayne Bridge saga. Once colleagues in Chelsea, the two English footballers opted not to shake hands when Chelsea hosted Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in 2010. On BBC’s live football website, just before the kick-off that day, a blogger had remarked: “For once my wife wants to watch a ‘football’ match. I wonder how long she will last in front of the screen after the handshake/non-handshake.”
The same action was repeated when Bridge was at West Ham United on loan and as the commentator says, we remember why.
The Danish international, Peter Schmeichel was and will always remain a Manchester United legend having spent eight seasons at the Old Trafford and captaining the side to the 1999 UEFA Champions League to make the treble. However, not quite everyone liked his move to the city rival in 2002, especially Gary Neville, as we can see here. Did Neville shake it or not?
William Gallas and Samir Nasri, both the French internationals at Arsenal had apparently never spoken to each other due to their feud during Euro 2008. In November 2010, Nasri stood by his promise and left Gallas empty-handed before the North London derby.
If we try and trace the origin of the tradition of handshakes, we will see that the ritual originated many centuries ago as a peaceful gesture, proof that the extended appendage contained no weapon.
But this little fellow had more than his share of weapons when he extended his hands towards Steven Gerrard; now isn’t that a cheeky little wink?
In hockey, the National Hockey League teams line up at centre ice after a playoff series and shake hands with opponents whom they have, in many cases, been trying to put through the boards every second night for two weeks. This tradition helps promote the concept of role modelling.
The FIFAs and the FAs of the world are trying to incorporate the same on the football pitch but this gesture is not found acceptable by one and all. John Terry must have thanked the Football Association for officially cancelling the pre-kickoff handshake before the FA Cup match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers in January 2012. The decision came over fears that QPR’s Anton Ferdinand would refuse to shake Terry’s hand considering Terry had racially abused him during a game in October 2011.

Elsewhere, did Francesco Totti completely miss Dejan Stanković or did he have an explanation for the snub? I am sure one of the longest explanations for refusing to shake hands was given by the French manager Raymond Domenech to the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Gomes Parreira when he was managing South Africa during the 2010 World Cup.
Going back to the now infamous Saturday when Suarez was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as a ‘disgrace’, Evra reciprocated with his post-match celebration which was anything but graceful.
Before I digress beyond racism issues here, let us take a look at the tradition of pre-match handshakes.
It was first implemented in UEFA Champions League in 1997. The English Premier League took it up starting the 2008/09 season as part of its RESPECT campaign.
FA, unlike football authorities in Spain and Italy, is doing or at least trying to do its bit against racism in Football. The Suarez-Evra kind of incident dilutes the bigger cause; may be getting rid of such pretentious rituals would help uplift the respect for football in particular and humanity in general.
We will wait to see if the ‘Goalden’ handshake between Suarez and Evra ever happens. Till then, let’s rejoice with the funniest handshakes on the football pitch between the players of Ohio Dominican Panthers.

*illustration by Avik Kumar Maitra

Indranath Mukherjee

About Indranath Mukherjee

Indranath Mukherjee follows South American and European football. Apart from Football, Film and Music keep him going. You can follow him on twitter @indranath