Never mind the handshakes, how about some football?

Vince Rugari Columnist

By Vince Rugari, Vince Rugari is a Roar Expert

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    Manchester United and Liverpool face off this weekend in what is perhaps the greatest rivalry in world football. (AP Image)

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    Move over, John Terry and Anton Ferdinand. The guys who started this whole handshake thing are back in the spotlight this weekend.

    At the Antipodean-friendly timeslot of 10.30pm AEST Sunday night, Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra will meet for the first time since… well, the last time they met. Remember that?

    Not that anyone really cares anymore, but there’s a chance that it’s all going to boil over once again if Suarez shuns Evra – or vice versa – just before kick-off.

    Assuming they both play, that is.

    If you were under a rock in February and missed what went down at Old Trafford, Suarez ignored the outstretched hand of Evra, the man he was found guilty of racially vilifiying – repeatedly – at a fixture four months prior.

    Chaos ensued.

    The two hotheads tangled a few times during the match, and at half time, and they both pretty much made fools of themselves for their antics – Suarez for his childishness, and Evra for effectively shouting from the top of his self-righteous pedestal following the final whistle.

    This time it is Suarez’s turn to stick his palm out, and you’d think the Liverpool brains trust would have scared him straight into doing it this week, no matter how much he doesn’t want to.

    He deserves to be run out of town if he resists again, given the sensitivity that surrounds Merseyside at the minute following the Hillsborough cover-up exposé. It’s important this game is played in the right spirit.

    But the will-he, won’t-he stories have been excruciating.

    The handshake (or not) will be the sideshow to the main event, which is Liverpool taking on Manchester United in another edition of one of sport’s greatest, most bitter rivalries.

    After their worst start to a season in 101 years, another loss here for Liverpool will see them further submerged in strife.

    They are stranded in the proverbial creek, minus one paddle. That paddle was Andy Carroll, and they didn’t get to the shops in time to buy a new one – although Brendan Rogers is said to be a carpenter of some repute, and could well fashion one out of possession football if he’s given enough time.

    Meanwhile, a rampant United, sitting in second place with nine points, will be keen to push them a little further downstream.

    It’s going to be a great game, with plenty of fireworks. So we don’t need a great, big obnoxious firecracker beforehand.

    The football is where the focus should be. Not on handshakes – and definitely not for the second straight week, after Ferdinand and Terry’s weak spin-off before the QPR-Chelsea game last round.

    Sequels are never as good as the original. However, in this case, the original is Weekend at Bernie’s, a movie that should never have even been made once, let alone twice.

    In fact, the filmmakers should arguably never have even given the opportunity to turn their perverse ideas into a reality in the first place.

    If we can extend this admittedly flimsy metaphor just a little further, I’m trying to say that forcing players to shake hands before matches shouldn’t happen, and is ridiculous.

    It’s a nice gesture, but that’s all it is.

    The players file past one another, trying to avoid making eye contact with their soon-to-be-enemies at all costs, begrudgingly rub their hands for the cameras that need the footage as part of their pre-match package, and then quickly forget about the whole experience three seconds later.

    Aside from the fact that it looks good on television, the only real purpose it serves is giving the opportunity for petulance to be broadcast live to millions of viewers across the world.

    It doesn’t guarantee fair play in the match, clearly. The players have been told to do it, so it’s not real – it’s for show.

    No kid is ever going to watch this so obviously phony ritual and think ‘You know what? I’m going to be a top bloke from now on because of that’.

    It’s part of the whole cultish window-dressing that precedes every Premier League game, and it is now much more trouble than its worth, given how the quarrels of some highly-paid footballers have become international incidents because of it.

    The only handshaking that needs to go down is between the two captains and the referees, before the toss of the coin.

    After the match, the players can have a massive group hug and then go out for a few pints and a parmigiana, if they’re that way inclined.

    But alas, for now at least, it is happening. And as long as it is happening, there should be a strict edict that everyone shakes everyone else’s hand – doesn’t matter who allegedly called who what. No exceptions.

    That goes for Suarez and Evra. They might not like it, and there might be close to zero value in it, but there are bigger concerns in the world than the ones they have with each other. Hillsborough, for one.

    Let’s hope for the sake of the 96, they can step out of the way this weekend and let the beautiful game take centre stage.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • Roar Guru

      September 21st 2012 @ 10:59am
      Mantis said | September 21st 2012 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      Im all for Ferdinand not shaking Terrys hand. I dont know what its like to be discriminated against because of my race, hopefully I never do. But I cant imagine it feels good. After all he had to go through, and no justice being served as yet, why would he shake his hand?

      I also find it interesting that Ji Sung Park (QPR and Anton Ferdinands captain) also refused to shake John Terrys hand. For someone who seems so quiet and humble, this is a huge thing for him to do, and shows, as captain, that he backs his teammate. As a QPR fan, I am glad they stuck it to Terry.

      • Columnist

        September 21st 2012 @ 1:01pm
        Vince Rugari said | September 21st 2012 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        The better question is why should they be forced into this charade.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 5:19pm
        Steve said | September 22nd 2012 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

        Ashley Cole knows what it’s like to be discriminated against because of his race, what with Rio Ferdinand calling him a ‘choc-ice’. Still good on Rio for being disgusted by racism other than his own- I suppose it’s a start.

    • Roar Guru

      September 21st 2012 @ 2:30pm
      apaway said | September 21st 2012 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

      Vince, do you know where the practice first began? I’m wracking my brain to try and remember if it was the 2006 World Cup where it started.

      Interesting the different philosophies regarding Ferdinand and Evra. Evra, after being racially vilified, was willing to shake Suarez’ hand but it was Suarez who refused. Whereas Ferdinand, the alleged victim in that case, has been the “refuser.”

    • September 21st 2012 @ 4:16pm
      qwerty said | September 21st 2012 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

      This handshake stuff seems predominantly confined to the EPL.A quick touch of hands and move on.Is it really that hard?

    • September 21st 2012 @ 4:54pm
      Ridley said | September 21st 2012 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

      Don’t see why they are expected to shake hands and why it’s an issue if they don’t.
      Would rather see a bit of pre-bounce AFL style shoulder barging etc then a meaningless token handshake.

    • September 21st 2012 @ 9:47pm
      k77sujith said | September 21st 2012 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

      These guys are role models to thousands of kids in the world and should keep their ego aside and just shake hands. Period. They have no reason to behave immaturely. Thanks.

      • September 21st 2012 @ 10:04pm
        Seriously, Who says Oi? said | September 21st 2012 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

        Pointless pregame shaking of hands shouldn’t be a factor in whether they are a role model or not.

    • Roar Guru

      September 22nd 2012 @ 5:36pm
      HarryBalding said | September 22nd 2012 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

      As a player (though not at a high level by any stretch of the imagination – except my own) I really appreciate the pre- and post-match handshakes. I reckon they’re great.

      Playing sport since I was four or five years old, and always shaking hands before and after every game taught me one thing. Sport is meant to be for fun. Sport is not that important that you have to be a jerk, but even when it does start to become important in terms of monetary gain or the support of the fans, it still shouldn’t change that fact.

      The handshakes are a ‘nice’ way of showing good-will to your opponents before the game; they are a reminder of the spirit that the game (and it doesn’t matter what particular game) should be played in. They’re also the best way to say, ‘Thanks for the game’ post-match.

      Vince I can see what you’re saying here, but I disagree (respectfully, of course). Football in general has already lost most of its sense of loyalty. Diving (or simulation) has diminished any sense of honesty and integrity. If decision makers want to remove the handshake – the most tangible sign of sportsmanship – then what does that say about the sport?

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